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Local News

Defendant-turned-witness in Joliet murder case faces armed robbery charge

Eric Raya, 21, of Joliet
Eric Raya, 21, of Joliet

A Joliet man who faced charges in connection with a triple homicide until prosecutors dropped them has been charged with armed robbery, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

After 21-year-old Eric Raya was charged with armed robbery, he was returned to prison Nov. 12, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Raya had been on parole since Sept. 27 after he was sentenced to five years in prison on an aggravated battery conviction.

Raya, Manuel Escamilla, 20, and Andy Cerros, 19, were arrested two years ago by Joliet police in connection with a deadly house fire at 16 N. Center St. in Joliet that killed Regina Rogers, 28, Rogers’ 11-month-old daughter, Royalty Rogers, and Jacquetta Rogers, 29, on June 3, 2017. Police said the fire was caused by a flare gun.

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped murder and arson charges against Raya in exchange for his guilty plea to charges of aggravated battery and obstruction of justice in an unrelated case. Raya admitted to allowing Escamilla to use his car and drive off with the flare gun.

Will County State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Carole Cheney said she knows Raya was arrested in Summit but couldn’t provide further information because the incident took place in Cook County.

Summit Police Chief John Kosmowski failed to respond to multiple calls and emails Monday about Raya’s recent arrest. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office referred questions about Raya’s armed robbery charge to Summit police.

Raya’s mother, Mady Perez, said that her son was arrested Nov. 4 after a barroom brawl at Town Tap on West Archer Avenue in Summit.

Perez said Raya was at the bar with two cousins and a friend. She said they were charged with armed robbery because one of Raya’s cousins accidentally picked up someone’s debit card during the dust-up.

Perez said the group got into a fight with men at the bar and that her son only threw two punches at a man who was biting one of his cousins.

“It was a bar brawl and he only defended his cousin, who was getting bit in his arm,” she said.

Town Tap employee Kelly Smith said the incident unfolded about 3 a.m. and caused one bartender to quit because “she was scared to death.”

Smith said the bartender told her a group entered the bar and circled a table where a man was sitting alone. Smith said one of the group hit the man over the head with a chair and then a table.

“This is not that kind of bar,” said. “I don’t know why this happened or why they came at this guy.”

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