A man with apparent ties to Rochester accused of bludgeoning his mother to death Sunday inside her South Buffalo home is an Army veteran with a history of mental illness, according to the victim’s sister.
Buffalo police Monday identified the suspect as Froilan Torres, 41, who was charged with second-degree murder after allegedly striking his mother, Gloria Rivera, 57, several times in the head with an unidentified object while visiting at her home in the 1700 block of South Park Avenue.
Rivera was taken to Mercy Hospital, where she died.
Regita Delvalle, a sister of the victim, gathered with other relatives early Monday evening outside Rivera’s home.
A woman whom others identified as a sister of Torres would only say that she did not want people to think her brother was a monster.
Delvalle described Torres, her nephew, as suffering from the mental effects of having served in Afghanistan.
“What really caused it was this Army. The Army, the Army,” Delvalle said.
“When he came out of the Army, he didn’t come out Froilan. Froilan changed, you know. And I know he loved his mom, but he was lost. Lost in the sauce, you know,” she added.
Delvalle said her nephew was released from the Army about five years ago and returned home a very different man.
“He got hurt and that’s why they let him go, because they shot him in the arms,” she said, referring to injuries he had suffered in the service.
Despite his problems, Delvalle said Torres had no prior history of attacking his mother.
“What did he think he was doing when he killed my sister, his mother?” Delvalle wondered aloud Monday. “It wasn’t him.”
Delvalle said her nephew and his girlfriend, who had come in from out of town, were visiting with Rivera and her husband at the time.
“His girlfriend had to put him in the psych ward, I think, about a year ago and then they let him go and that was it,” Delvalle said.
Delvalle said she was caught offguard Monday when she received a phone call summoning her to Mercy Hospital and was informed about what had happened.
Her sister, who was married and lived at the South Park Avenue residence with her husband, was the mother of four adult children, a daughter and three sons. Delvalle said Rivera, herself, grew up in a tight-knit family of four sisters and a brother.
“The family is devastated. We’re all in a state of shock. We can’t accept it, but we have no choice,” Delvalle said.
South District police officers arrived at the scene just after 5 p.m. Sunday. Afterward, Torres was arraigned on a second-degree murder charge Monday in Buffalo City Court before Judge Kevin J. Keane. He’s due back in court Thursday.
Maria Rodriguez, a close friend and neighbor, described the victim as beloved by family and friends.
“She was a beautiful sister. She was always right behind you, always asking what she could do to help. She was my ‘sapo,’ ” said Rodriguez, who explained that the word meant “frog” in Spanish, a nickname she said that had been given to Rivera in childhood.
“She’s got like 5,000 frogs in her house,” Rodriguez added with a smile, in reference to the victim’s vast collection of frog-themed items.
Delvalle said she last spoke to her sister about three weeks ago.
“We had a long conversation, a long talk. That’s when she told me she had a heart problem. That was the best talk we ever had. That was the last time I seen her,” Delvalle said.