July 17--JEREMIAH JAKSON was a lousy security guard. He wasn't good at casing robbery victims, either.
The 22-year-old Mantua resident was fired last month from AlliedBarton Security Services "due to performance reasons," the company said last night.
So he decided last weekend to rob Laura Araujo, 23, a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia who was living in the same rooming home on 40th Street near Brown, police said.
Jakson, who has at least four aliases and prior arrests on robbery, theft and gun charges, figured that Araujo had money because she drove a 2011 Toyota RAV4.
"Mr. Jakson believed that she had some money with her, a large amount of cash, based on the vehicle that she was driving," Homicide Unit Lt. Walter Bell said.
He couldn't possibly have been more wrong about his victim, according to Araujo's older brother.
"She never had money because she didn't believe in it. She called herself a minimalist. She just had enough to get by," Lorenzo Araujo told the Daily News yesterday. "Her parents bought her the RAV4. She didn't even want it. She thought it was too big and too much."
A trash-picker discovered Araujo's body inside a black duffel bag about 5:30 a.m. Monday in a lot on 3rd Street near Susquehanna Avenue in North Philadelphia. Her possessions were in the RAV4 because she was apartment hunting, and all of them had been tossed at the scene.
Yesterday, Jakson was charged with murder for allegedly strangling and beating Araujo, ditching the bag containing her body, then torching her car in South Philly to cover his tracks.
"Why do you think someone who is living in a rooming house like you has money?" Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross asked. "When someone is so callous about life, it's unbelievable, no matter how long you have been doing this."
Police say an arson investigator who was working the SUV fire on Bambrey Street near Tasker saw the Araujo case on the news and noticed that the vehicle was registered to a person with the same last name. The investigator found Jakson at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, which had reported that he arrived with serious burns to both arms.
"His story didn't add up," Ross said.
Jakson posted an eerie status update on his Facebook page at 5:10 p.m. Sunday, the evening before Araujo's body was discovered: "Father please forgive my sins I had committed through life, im not perfect, im not great, im on my own with no guidance, I surrender to you. And will bowdown to the king and worship."
Asked at a news conference if Jakson had confessed to the slaying, Bell responded, "We have the right man."
Laura Araujo was one of seven children. She grew up in the Bronx and attended high school in Kansas. She graduated from the Art Institute last year with a degree in fashion marketing, but had also been involved in Christian outreach programs and was thinking about taking a job as a nanny for the time being.
There were a lot of possibilities. The former dean's list student probably could have succeeded at any of them, Lorenzo Araujo said.
"She wasn't sure. She hadn't found anything that she absolutely loved," he said. "Her goal was that she didn't want to do something she didn't love, so she just played the field."
Lorenzo Araujo, 25, who lives north of Wichita, said he was still trying to process the fact that his "baby sister" was dead. She was smart, beautiful and goal-oriented, and selective about who she let into her life and what she put into her body.
"I'm still in disbelief. Of the two of us, I was always the troublemaker," he said by phone. "She should have outlived everybody. She never drank alcohol or did drugs or hung out late. She was a vegan, didn't eat red meat, always did community service."
Laura Araujo had been staying in the Mantua boarding house temporarily after moving out of an apartment at 8th and Diamond streets. Jakson's room was on the same floor, Bell said.
Brenda Townsend, 62, who lives nearby, said she had cleaned the home for at least the past 15 years, including after it transitioned into a boarding house not long ago.
She said Jakson was one of nine people living in the house, where residents can pay by the week, and had once asked her to clean his room. She said that there was no furniture inside -- only blankets -- and that Jakson made sexual advances toward her and offered her money.
"I knew then he was crazy," Townsend said.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey praised his team for quickly solving a case that shook the city.
"I think the homicide investigators did an outstanding job. This is a particularly bad case," he said. "[Araujo] is a truly innocent victim. We had a very vicious predator, with a long history, and to get him off the streets -- hopefully permanently -- is good for everybody in Philadelphia."
An April Facebook photo shows Jakson in his AlliedBarton uniform wearing what appears to be a badge from Temple University Hospital's Episcopal Campus. AlliedBarton would not confirm his last assignment.
For Lorenzo Araujo, the arrest was little consolation.
"For me personally? No. It doesn't really change much," he said after being told that Jakson had been charged with murder. "Maybe down the road, but not today."
- Daily News staff writers David Gambacorta and Vinny Vella contributed to this report.
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