Relatives applaud arrest in 1994 W. Babylon fatal shooting
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Mario Andujar's relatives gathered Sunday for a birthday celebration at his grave just as they have every year since he was gunned down in 1994 while working at a West Babylon auto shop.
But this year they have a newfound focus: justice.
Police arrested a Manhattan man on Thursday and charged him with the slaying. Sunday would have been Mario Andujar's 49th birthday
"It's God's gift to him for his birthday, that's what I feel. It took 19 years, but finally," said Mario's sister, Sonia Andujar, of Brentwood, who learned of the arrest on Friday.
"It was like coming back to that day again. It was sad. It was bittersweet news -- happy and sad at the same time. I was crying."
Mario Andujar was a mechanic at Diamond Trucking in 1994, when, according to police, Troy Arrighi and another man who is still at large entered the business wearing ski masks. Arrighi, 37, was carrying a .38 revolver. According to the criminal complaint, Arrighi demanded money and told police he shot Andujar twice in the chest. Andujar died at the scene.
Another mechanic who was working that day, Juan Garcia, was shot in the leg, but survived.
Arrighi was ordered held without bond Friday at his arraignment on murder and attempted robbery charges.
The family members at Oakwood Cemetery in Bay Shore Sunday afternoon said the arrest after 19 years had brought a range of emotions: shock, relief, joy and sadness.
"We always had hope that we would get news," said Mario Andujar's aunt, Angela Perez, 48, of Brentwood. "Now we want justice."
Family members said they were disappointed that police didn't contact them immediately after the arrest -- they all still live in the area -- because they would have wanted to attend the arraignment. They said police have told them they've been pursuing Arrighi for nearly a year.
"I think somebody snitched," said Cristal Andujar, 21, who was 2 when her dad was killed. "They've been chasing him for 11 months."
Diana Andujar, 30, was 11 when her mother told her the news after school.
"I honestly didn't think they were ever going to catch him," she said. "After so many years, evidence starts to fade away."
His family's memories are still clear. They recalled Andujar as a family man who loved fishing and doted on his two daughters and one stepdaughter.
Sunday his grave was covered with flowers and birthday balloons. His parents -- Georgina, 66, and Manuel, 75, of Brentwood -- said they were "happy" to hear of the arrest.
Jeffrey Durant, 30, said Andujar, his older cousin, had been like a father figure to him.
"I grew up without a dad," said Durant, of Selden, who was 12 when Andujar died and sought counseling to deal with his grief. "We used to go truck driving. He took me on a boat. . . . He definitely had a big impact on me. He was like a dad."
Editor's note: The location of an auto shop where Mario Andujar was gunned down in 1994 was incorrectly identified in a Feb. 17, 2013 story and headline. The auto body shop was in West Babylon.