By Dan Burns
ROSELLE, NJ - When Judy Cajuste went to school at Abraham Clark High School she always wore shoes that matched her brightly colored shirts.
In the classroom, she worked hard in hopes of being a teacher, nurse or police officer when she grew up. Outside of class, she had a small army of friends who felt they could tell her anything.
"She was friendly to everybody, outgoing, down to earth, just a good person in general," Cajuste's friend Edly Victorin said.
"When you needed someone to speak to, she was there for you," fellow ninth grader Yasmare McKnight said.
On Jan. 13, the girl with scores of friends, dozens of dreams and only 14 years of life experience was found in a dumpster in Newark's Weequahic Park. She had been strangled to death, according to Essex County Executive Assistant Prosecutor Charlotte L. Smith.
Cajuste was reported missing in Roselle on Jan. 12. At about 3 p.m. the next day, Essex County Department of Parks workers called the police after finding Cajuste's body inside a dumpster in a maintenance garage. The garage is located in a parking area for the park, near Elizabeth and Grumman avenues in Newark.
"Cajuste was pronounced dead at the scene," Smith said. "Preliminary autopsy results revealed the cause of death was strangulation and the manner of death was homicide."
Police didn't learn the body they'd found was Cajuste's until Jan. 20, one week later. Judy's mother, Magalie Cajuste, identified the body.
Magalie Cajuste has been cordial to the press, but declined a request for an interview Tuesday, saying she was exhausted from the whole ordeal.
The word among students in the ACHS parking lot after dismissal Tuesday was Judy Cajuste met a man in his 20s on an online chat site. They believe the meeting was part of a chain of events that led to her death.
Cajuste's friend Pierre Noel, a 10th grader, believes this wasn't the first time Cajuste met the man. From what he knows about her, he doesn't think she would go meet a strange man for the first time without a friend.
"She felt comfortable with him," Noel said.
Many of Cajuste's friends were still shocked by her death Tuesday. Students who didn't feel well enough to take their exams were allowed to make them up at a later date. Fewer than 30 students opted to do that, according to English teacher Victoria Lih.
Guidance counselors set up shop in the auditorium and talked to any students who were especially upset, according to Principal Nathan Fischer.
After school Tuesday, students mingled in the ACHS parking lot and gathered around television news crews. Amber Braswell, a ninth grader, carried around a decorated box collecting donations from teachers and students, which she and other friends planned to give to Magalie Cajuste.
"We don't care if it's even just a little bit of change, anything you can give will help," Braswell said.
Cajuste's classmates received help from the ACHS guidance department to put together a memorial to the young murder victim in the school's main hallway. It is a trophy case full of balloons, flowers and teddy bears, with a picture of Cajuste in the center. About eight poster-sized cards signed by Cajuste's friends are affixed to the wall next to the memorial.
"When you walk past the memorial you feel like crying, but you can't all the time," ninth-grader Ayeisha Forbes said. "It's sad because her locker was right next to mine. I won't see her there anymore."
Every ninth-grader asked about Cajuste Tuesday either knew her personally or knew someone that knew her personally.
Eighth grader Jakoya Duggans walked to the store with her every day. Kevin Lucien and Landry Poosh, both 12th-graders, always kept a spot reserved for her at their lunch table.
"We used to sit with her in the lunch room. All the Haitians sat together," Lucien said. "Now you see all of us Haitians sitting together and you don't see Judy. That's messed up."
Chris Mohr, an 11th-grader, was one of the students who didn't know Cajuste directly, even though he lives around the corner from her.
"It's sad even if you didn't know her. They thought she just ran away for a couple days and was going to come back," Mohr said.
"Even if you didn't know her you still feel bad about what happened, feel bad for the family," he added.
Many of Cajuste's friends know her from her days in elementary school. "I remember her from Polk school. She played Harriet Tubman in a play once," said Stephen, an eighth-grader who declined to give his last name.
"She would always come over my house and we would eat Chinese food," ninth-grader Diedra Whetstone said.
Eighth-grader Garrett Brown articulated what seemed to be the sentiment of everyone who knew her since elementary school. "She was easy to be friends with. She would talk to you about anything and if you needed something she had, she'd give it to you," Brown said.
In between recalling fond memories of their friend, ACHS students showed their disdain for Cajuste's killer. Some called for the death penalty. "I think whoever did this is a sick person," eighth-grader Neosha Bails said.
Since Cajuste's death, several ACHS students have taken more precautions regarding who they talk to online, according to Bails. Some have taken their pictures down from pages with public access.
"I took my pictures down. Now only my friends can see them," Bails said.
Staff Writer Dan Burns can be reached at 908-686-7700, ext. 120
from our friend at WildXAngel