‘It’s So Unfair for Someone to Just Take His Life Like That’

‘It’s So Unfair for Someone to Just Take His Life Like That’

Barahona Reyes remembered by his family as loving, supportive.

Brother and sister, Luis and Barbara Barahona Reyes.

Brother and sister, Luis and Barbara Barahona Reyes.

To the general public and Fairfax County’s legal system, Luis Barahona Reyes is simply known as the victim of a brutal murder that happened last spring in Fairfax City. But he was also somebody’s brother, somebody’s uncle and a loved and valued member of a large, close-knit family. 

“We have so many good memories of him talking and laughing, and he meant so much to each and every one of us,” said niece Rosibel Barahona. “And it’s so unfair for him to be gone in such a terrible way – for someone to just come out of nowhere and take his life like that.”

From May 6-8, Aaron Robertson – the man responsible for his death – stood trial in Circuit Court. And while it was difficult for Barahona Reyes’s family to hear the details of his murder, they showed up each day.

About a dozen of his relatives – including two sisters, a brother, a cousin, a family friend and several nieces and nephews – were in the courtroom. And since many didn’t speak English, they listened to the proceedings via a Spanish-language interpreter translating everything through special equipment.

On May 9, the jurors found Robertson guilty of second-degree murder. And while waiting for them to return with that verdict, three of Barahona Reyes’s family members spoke with The Connection outside the courtroom.

“He was an amazing human being and the best uncle I could ever ask for,” said Rosibel. She grew up with him in El Salvador and said Barahona Reyes, 49, came to the U.S. when he was 19 or 20.

“He worked hard as a busboy and dishwasher in restaurants – most recently at the Indian Bombay Café [in Fairfax] – and saved his money to help my mom, an aunt and his four brothers and two sisters,” said Rosibel. “He never married, so his nieces, nephews and I were his family. He was very giving and supportive and always there for us.”

She came to America at age 9 and had fond memories of her uncle taking her to the mall and on various outings and bringing gifts to her and her cousins. Calling him fun-loving, she said he especially enjoyed vacations with the family in Ocean City and Virginia Beach. He also loved dancing and listening to music and hoped to one day visit Spain.

“After he got his permanent U.S. residency, he was happy because he was able to travel back and forth to see his family in El Salvador,” said Rosibel. “He’d last visited in March 2023. He’d bought a lot there near the beach and planned to build a little house there someday, after retiring.”

Shortly before Barahona Reyes’s death, however, she said he “fell into a depression” because one of his brothers in El Salvador had recently passed away. The night her uncle died, said Rosibel, “He was lonely and had been drinking.”

When she learned of his death, she “didn’t want to believe it. I hoped it was a mistake. I kept calling his phone for a whole week. It took me a long time to accept it. We talked on the phone every week. It’s hit me very hard, because I’ve never had someone so close to me die. I always thought he’d become an old man. He had goals and plans – so much ahead. So it’s heartbreaking to have your loved one go that way – tortured.”

Another niece, Neyda Barahona – who’d researched Robertson’s criminal history – stressed his previous arrests for domestic assault, plus his two counts of felony assault against a law-enforcement officer stemming from an incident at Fair Oaks Mall. Police charged Robertson with these offenses in December 2022; but at the time of the murder, he was free on supervised release. 

Furious at the legal system, Neyda said, “Fairfax County failed us because it’s so lenient on crime now.” Noting that Barahona Reyes’s middle name was Innocente – meaning “innocent” in Spanish – she wondered if he would still be alive if, instead, Robertson had been behind bars on that fateful June night. “His death was senseless,” she said. “My uncle lost his life for no reason, and I’m angry.”

Furthermore, she said, Barahona Reyes was a stylish dresser who cared about his appearance. “He was so handsome and always took pride in how he looked,” said Neyda. “But [Robertson] destroyed his face.”

Like her cousin Rosibel, she, too, was devastated by her uncle’s death. “I’ve never cried that hard in my life,” said Neyda. “He and my mom were the closest of all the siblings. My mom’s the youngest, and he was her older brother, always taking care of her.”

“One of the hardest parts of all this is seeing my mother’s pain,” she continued. “She grew up with him and was never as happy as when she was with her brother.  It’s sad that she’ll never be that happy again, and every family gathering isn’t the same without him.”

Neyda said Barahona Reyes also helped her mom financially and played an important role in her own life. “I grew up without a father, so my uncle was the father figure I never had, and I loved him,” she said. “I’ve never seen him angry. He was the joy of our family, always happy and laughing, and would literally give you the shirt off his back. I’d give anything to hear his laugh again – now it’s just a memory.”

Her mother, Barbara Barahona Reyes, spoke about her brother Luis, as well, with Rosibel translating for her. “I have many special memories since we were little kids, but also special memories of his last days, because we’d always find time to spend with each other,” said Barbara. “I was a single mother, and he protected me and gave me advice about how I could better my life.”

She said Luis was the brother she loved the most and felt the strongest connection to. “My mother died giving birth to me, and my father was very old by then, so he helped raise me,” explained Barbara. “When we were children, we were always together. And as we grew, I looked up to him. We planned to grow old and retire together in El Salvador.”

Since his tragic death, she said, “He lives in my heart. I wish I could turn time back. It hurts me very much that he’s not here anymore.”

As for her, said Rosibel, “I’ll always keep the good memories of him and the fun times alive, so he’ll keep living within us.”

“What’s helped us all go on is being united as a family,” added Neyda. “Being close to each other is being close to him.”