LAWRENCE — It was a fire outside the 5 Bailey St. triple-decker that got Leyda Elizabeth "Eli" Hernandez, 25, and her boyfriend Daniel Diaz, 29, out of her family home where police believe a lone gunman stood in wait early yesterday.
Both Diaz and Hernandez were shot in the head execution-style about 12:55 a.m., making them the city's seventh and eighth murder victims this year. Investigators are looking at whether the accelerant thrown on the house and lit was the work of the gunman, whom they believe acted alone.
Police haven't ruled out the murders as drug-related.
The fire was what also brought out Hernandez's older brother Dency Felix who lives at 5 Bailey with the family. He said he was sleeping on the living room couch when he was awakened by "15 to 20 gunshots," he said.
"I threw myself on the floor," said Felix, 34, who then went to check on his 10-year-old daughter. After making sure she was safe, Felix said he checked his sister's room, but she wasn't there. When he looked outside, Felix saw his mother's burgundy Ford Explorer also on fire.
"A few minutes later, a cop came up to me and broke the news about my sister," said Felix, 34.
The couple had been together for about five years, but Felix said the family was always telling Hernandez "she could do better." He said Diaz had a lengthy criminal record and had been in and out of jail.
"She just ended up going with the wrong guy," he said, as a steady stream of friends of relatives came to the house to offer condolences and comfort his mother. "She didn't listen."
Diaz stayed with the family at 5 Bailey, but also had relatives and friends on Park Street and in Haverhill, Felix said. Attempts to reach Diaz's relatives were unsuccessful yesterday.
"He would come and go," Felix said.
Yesterday, the front of the 5 Bailey St. was left scorched by fire. Burnt vinyl siding curled off the front of the building. Pavement in front of the house was also melted.
Blue, latex gloves worn by rescue personnel were strewn about the ground, along with small sections of yellow crime scene tape.
Neighbors reported hearing up to 20 gunshots and seeing the Explorer burning outside.
"The sound was so strong and I saw the car burning. I saw the people right there," said Sal Prey, of 3 Bailey St., as he pointed down the street later yesterday morning.
"I was so scared," said Prey, a Cambodian immigrant who has lived on Bailey Street for a decade and described the area as quiet.
Felix described his sister as outgoing and friendly who enjoyed being with her friends.
"She was pretty much living her life for the moment," he said.
The murders remain under investigation by state and Lawrence police, the Lawrence fire department and the state fire marshal.
Staff reporter Bill Kirk contributed to this story.
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