(NY DAILY NEWS) – A heartbroken family is demanding answers over the death of a doting dad beaten by a mugger over his iPhone on the Lower East Side.
Giovanni Destefano, 27, was walking to a friend’s home when he was jumped and beaten near E. Fifth St. and Avenue B about 9:50 p.m. Oct. 20, police said.
He suffered a fractured skull and was placed in a medically-induced coma before dying at Bellevue Hospital on Nov. 10, relatives said. The city Medical Examiner deemed his death a homicide.
Giovanni was devoted to his young daughter and son, relatives said.
“He loved them to death. He would do anything for his kids,” said his half-sister Evelyna Deleon Destefano, 29. “His main goal was to have a good job and move out of New York City. He wanted to have the best of the best for his children.”
So far, no arrests have been made as cops in the Ninth Precinct try to tamp down a jump in robberies.
In 2017, Giovanni was convicted of robbing a Chinese food deliveryman and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation. Since then, he turned his life around for the better, his half-sibling said.
“He was staying out of trouble. From what I know was he was working off the books,” his sister said. “He was doing very good for himself. He was reporting for probation. He was doing what he had to do so he could make sure he bettered himself.”
Destefano had lived in Staten Island but recently moved to Coney Island. He often visited pals on the Lower East Side, his half-sister said.
The victim’s dad, Clemente Destefano, 47, came from his home in San Antonio, Tex., to be at his son’s side in the hospital.
“There was just a bunch of tubes down his throat,” Clemente Destafano told the Daily News. “He had brain swelling and bleeding on the brain and they had to take a part of his skull off to relieve the pressure and the swelling. They got him stable for awhile. Then I get the call that he passed.”
He had been trying to get his son to join him in Texas in the months before the robbery.
“I was trying to get him to come out here so he can straighten up some more, maybe get him a job,” Clemente Destafano said. “He said he’d think about it but I never heard back from him and this happened.”
“I have six kids. Now I have five,” the devastated dad added. “It’s just bad luck, wrong place at the wrong time.”
Destefano’s family speculates his killing was more than a random mugging and that he was specifically targeted. They said his wallet and shoes were taken along with his iPhone 7.
Over the last month 12 robberies have been reported to cops in the East Village and the Lower East Side compared to just three during the same 28-day period last year.
In one notable case, three women and a man took turns punching and kicking a 35-year-old man on Avenue C before taking his jacket, boots, sunglasses and a single dollar bill on Oct. 26.
Police couldn’t say if any of the recent robberies were linked to Destefano’s death.
Anyone with information regarding Destefano’s death or the wave of robberies in the area is urged to call NYPD Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
With Trevor Boyer