A neighborhood acquaintance of a 50-year-old man who authorities say died last week in a hail of gunfire in Valley Stream is facing a murder charge.
Relatives of the victim, Richard Baccus of Rosedale, Queens, were in Hempstead District Court Tuesday as the man accused of killing him, Orlando Ortiz, made his first appearance before a judge.
Police arrested Ortiz, 31, of Valley Stream, on Monday evening, charging him with second-degree murder in the Dec. 23 shooting.
Ortiz pleaded not guilty, authorities said.
Police said they found Baccus' body in a 2004 BMW in a parking lot next to the Ay! Caramba restaurant on West Merrick Road in Valley Stream.
His wife, Romona Baccus, said she last saw him heading off to the restaurant that evening to drop off the family's Christmas tree so it could be displayed there.
Relatives said a fire in Baccus' nearby home had forced his family to live on their property in a trailer that was too small for the decoration, but he still wanted to spread holiday cheer.
A judge ordered Ortiz held without bail Tuesday after a request from Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Melissa Lewis.
Lewis said in court that Ortiz got into an argument with Baccus, grabbed a gun and shot him point-blank nine times.
Ortiz used a .22-caliber revolver to shoot the victim in the face and head, according to the felony complaint. The nature of the dispute was not disclosed.
Ortiz's arraignment lawyer told the judge the defendant has lived in Valley Stream his whole life, works with computers and hasn't been in trouble with the law before.
Baccus knew Ortiz from around the neighborhood, including from socializing at a deli and at Ay! Caramba, Baccus' wife said. She said Ortiz also had sometimes stopped by their home with beers for her husband.
Their neighborhood is on the New York City border, and Baccus' family lives on the Queens side.
Baccus' family said they came seeking answers about their loved one's slaying, but got none.
"I wanted to ask why, and why so many shots," Romona Baccus said. "I just want to know why he did it."
Richard Baccus ran a car-painting business on their property and was in one of his customers' cars when he died, according to relatives.
"He was just a friendly guy, and he knew everybody," said the victim's daughter, Renita Bacchus, 24.
"It's really hard for the family. Because we don't know what happened or have any closure."
Ortiz's next court appearance is Friday.