Orlando Sentinel

‘Whatever happens, Aaron needs justice’

High-profile case of MMA fighter’s killing nears its end

- By Marc Freeman mjfreeman@sunsentine­l. com

It’s been almost four years since a group of young assailants carried out the home invasion murder of mixed martial arts fighter Aaron Rajman in West Boca, authoritie­s say.

The apparent motive: to rob the 25-year-old athlete, known as “The Matzoh Brawler,” of his money and marijuana.

Now, the high-profile case is drawing closer to an end. Just two months ago, authoritie­s arrested the sixth and final person accused in the July 3, 2017, killing.

Two of the perpetrato­rs took plea deals and began serving prison sentences. Palm Beach County prosecutor­s are looking to use their testimony to land conviction­s for the other four people charged in grand jury indictment­s.

Juries could hear how the group — whose ages ranged from 17 to 28 and included roommates and people who just met each other — joined for a night of crime that turned deadly. The trial dates will depend on how quickly the court system returns to normal amid the pandemic.

Rajman’s friends are ready for it to conclude. They remember Rajman as a beloved member of South Florida’s Orthodox Jewish community, lauding his “heart of gold” and concern for others.

In the week before he died, he taught Palm Beach County school police officers an Israeli self-defense method called Krav Maga, which are skills to disarm an attacker.

“Whatever happens, Aaron needs justice,” said Benjamin Szlamkowic­z, a neighborho­od friend who went to synagogue services with Rajman. “He was still a good dude regardless of what happened in this case. He always wanted to help people and scratch everyone’s back.”

A drug robbery gone bad

Rajman had cited struggles with drugs and the law as a teenager, according to an essay he posted on the website, MMAFutures. com. His father died from lymphoma cancer when he was 19.

In 2011, Rajman told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that his dad was in his corner for his first fight and he stuck with MMA because that’s what his father would have wanted. Rajman reportedly had an 8-1 win-loss record as an amateur, and 2-2 record after turning pro in 2014.

While prosecutor­s haven’t provided a descriptio­n of the murder case, court records show Rajman was actively dealing drugs from a home he shared with relatives in the Sandalfoot Cove neighborho­od, just east of State Road 7 and south of Palmetto Park Road.

Records show the shooting happened just before 10:30 p.m., right after Rajman returned home from a late-night meal at LandLubber­s Raw Bar & Grill in Coconut Creek.

Detectives used cellphone records, surveillan­ce video, witness statements and social media records to identify the suspects who fled the crime scene in the 22700 block of Southwest 65th Terrace, according to investigat­ion reports obtained by the Sun Sentinel.

A key lead was a call Rajman received from a teenager named Summer Church, only minutes before he was ambushed. She told detectives that she was following instructio­ns from an acquaintan­ce to make sure Rajman was home.

Church had smoked weed there before.

“I swear to God I thought it was a robbery,” she said during an interrogat­ion, adding that she remained in a car parked outside. “I didn’t know there was any guns.”

Rajman told Church he could not entertain visitors.

Moments after the call, Rajman and his girlfriend were startled by a man in a hooded sweatshirt who asked, “Where’s the s—-?”

As Rajman tried to disarm the intruder, he was shot multiple times, including a fatal chest wound.

Another man then came in and joined the unidentifi­ed shooter in rummaging through Rajman’s belongings, while a third man waited outside the bedroom, the girlfriend said.

As the robbers bolted to the getaway car, they dropped a bag of marijuana, Rajman’s wallet and phone, and a martial arts sword, records show.

Rajman’s girlfriend told detectives his pot customers dropped by daily.

Investigat­ors saw a dry-erase marker board above Rajman’s nightstand, with the words: “brownies, dabs, live resin, oil cartridges, salted caramel blondie, magic mushrooms and moon rocks. Ask about this week’s specials.”

Three people, including Church, were arrested two months after the shooting.

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