HOBOKEN, N.J. (WABC) — Three teenage boys have been charged with murder in connection with the death of a homeless man in Hoboken.
Prosecutors say the three followed 46-year old Ralph Eric Santiago as he walked on 3rd Street on September 10th when one of the juveniles threw a punch at Santiago’s head in what detectives now believe was a game of “knockout.”
Santiago then collapsed onto an iron fence wedging his neck between two iron fence posts, where he died.
Two of the suspects are 13 years old and the other is 14. All are from Jersey City.
Detectives believe they travelled on the Light Rail from Jersey City to Hoboken.
All three have been remanded to the Hudson County Youth Detention Center.
The ex-wife of the victim revealed information about his life. “Eric and I met in High School,” Tracy said.
Tracy wants us to just use her first name, and she wants everyone to know who Eric Santiago was.
“He was very well loved. And although he is always identified as the homeless man from Hoboken, he wasn’t homeless very long,” Tracy said.
He was for about a year now.
High School sweethearts, they got married and had a baby.
Eric was a promising gymnast and break-dancer.
But one day back in 1986 while visiting a friend, there was an unnerving, ironic, coincidence.
“Somebody came from behind they grabbed him and started to slam his head against the floor,” Tracy said.
The beating was so bad that Eric slipped into a coma.
He would eventually wake up, but he would never be the same. He had brain damage.
They divorced, but over the years, Tracy kept in touch and made sure Eric was part of their son’s life.
“My husband and I always brought them up on weekends. Him, his mother, and his sister,” Tracy said.
But a year ago Eric lost his apartment, and recently, there was the vicious attack.
This time he would not escape death.