Three teens have been charged with murder in the death of a Florida MMA fighter who was killed in July in his Boca Raton home during a home invasion robbery.
Summer Church, 16, Jace Swinton, 18, and Roberto Ortiz, 18, are facing several charges in the death of , Aaron Rajman, 25, including first-degree murder, after they were arrested Friday, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says. Church was taken into custody while she was being driven to high school by her mother, the Palm Beach Post reports. She is being charged as an adult.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rajman Was Killed During a Fight After Multiple Men Entered His Home During an Apparent Robbery Attempt, Police Say
Aaron Rajman, 25, was shot to death after multiple men entered his home about 10:30 p.m. on July 3, the sheriff’s office said. Rajman was shot after a fight broke out, according to police. It is not known if police believe anyone else was involved in the robbery and murder.
Rajman lived in the 22700 block of Southwest 65th Terrace in West Boca, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Few details about the case have been made public. Charging documents that would reveal more information have not yet been released by the Palm Beach County court.
“When our deputies arrived, they learned that the males entered the home where an altercation resulted in a male being shot,” the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release announcing the arrests.
A Palm Beach County grand jury indicted Summer Church, Jace Swinton and Roberto Ortiz on charges of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of home invasion robbery with a firearm, according to court records.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Church was dating Swinton at the time they are alleged to have taken part in the robbery and murder. Church’s mother told the newspaper that her daughter had become acquainted with Rajman after they met at a convenience store in Boca Raton in January. Judith Church told the Post that Swinton had also met Rajman and had been to his house.
2. Detectives Claim Church Was the Mastermind Behind the Plot, While Her Mother Says She Was Forced to Take Part
Detectives have claimed that 16-year-old Summer Church was the “mastermind” behind the plot to rob Aaron Rajman, which led to his murder, Judith Church, the girl’s mother, told WPBF-TV. Judi Church says her daughter has cooperated with police and was forced to be involved. She said her daughter was not at the house when the robbery and shooting occurred.
“I told detectives, I said this out loud: ‘she’s not that smart.’ They said, ‘oh yes, she is, we think she’s the mastermind behind it,’” Judith Church told the news station.
The elder Church claims there are suspects still on the loose. She told WPBF that Roberto Ortiz, who her daughter did not know, and three other men forced Summer into a car at gunpoint and forced her to call Aaron Rajman, because they wanted to see if he would be home so they could rob him. According to Judith Church, her daughter did call and when Rajman said he was out with his girlfriend, she told the men that he wasn’t home and they let her out of the car.
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Judith Church says Jace Swinton was in the car, but was also threatened by Ortiz and the other men. She told the news station her daughter thought the men had given up on their plan, so she didn’t call Rajman back to warn him.
“She was scared to death,” Church said. “They threatened her. They threatened Jace. They know where we live.”
Judith Church told the Palm Beach Post that her daughter was interviewed by detectives for more than 12 hours over three days. She was shocked when the girl was taken into custody.
“She worked with them and gave them as much information as possible,” Judith Church told the newspaper. “She wasn’t there. To charge her with first-degree murder doesn’t make sense.
She told the Sun-Sentinel, “I know everything that happened that is not in the report, I know more than I need to know and I know that this case is not over, I was in the interrogation room, with Jace and with Summer.”
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Swinton’s mother also told the newspaper her son is innocent. “He didn’t do it, he’s a very humble, sweet kid,” she said.
Ortiz’s family declined to comment, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
3. Church Is an 11th Grader at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Rotan, While Swinton & Ortiz Are From Margate & Boyton Beach
Summer Church was being driven to Olympic Heights High School, where she was set to start her junior year, by her mother Friday morning when they were swarmed by six Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office vehicles and she was taken into custody on murder charges, her mother told the Palm Beach Post.
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Judith Church told WPBF, “They’ve already destroyed my daughter by doing this, she’s 16-years-old, this is everywhere on the media, everyone’s calling me because they want to front page this – they have the wrong person.”
Jace Swinton attended Boynton Beach Community High School, according to his Facebook page. He is originally from West Palm Beach.
Roberto Ortiz, who attended Quantum High School, an alternative school in Boynton Beach last spring, is the only one of the three teens with an arrest record, the Palm Beach Post reports. It’s not clear how he knew Swinton and Church.
Ortiz was arrested by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in January and accused of pointing a gun at a 16-year-old boy in Lake Worth, according to court records. Police said he also punched and kicked a second person and fired a shot at a third. Prosecutors declined to file charges against Ortiz later in the month, according to court records.
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4. Rajman, Known as ‘The Matzoh Brawler,’ Had a 2-2 Record as a Professional MMA Fighter
According to MixedMartialArts.com, Rajman had a 2-2 record as an MMA professional fighter. He fought his first pro match in April 2014. His last was on May 7, 2016, losing to Luis Raul Gomez Alvarez.
Rajman had a 8-1 record as an amateur. He was listed at 5-foot, 9 and 152 lbs. He started his amateur career in 2010.
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MMA referee Russ Greenberg told the Sun Sentinel that Rajman helped him organize last moth’s Boca Fight Bash. He also helped put together an August 6 event.
Greenberg said Rajman was recovering from a leg injury and had hoped to fight again soon.
Rajman was nicknamed “The Matzoh Brawler” and he wrote about the importance of his Jewish heritage in a 2014 essay for MMA Futures. In the essay, he said he was born in the Bronx, New York and moved to Florida when he was four years old. He struggled with drugs while growing up, but his family helped him get clean.
“I’m most happy and successful when I can help or at least maybe inspire the people around me. MMA has been that for me, certainly my family has been tremendously supportive but I’ve been amazed how many others have as well,” Rajman wrote.
Rajman added that he has devoted more time to his family and community outside the gym. In the previous five years, he focused “a lot more on my relationship with G-d.” He also picked up cooking as a hobby and was cooking for family before the Sabbath.
In the essay, Rajman wrote:
In the gym you often hear things like “Don’t give up!”, Don’t look tired!”, “Figure it out!”. I often have to tell myself these things outside of the gym. Sure, spirituality gives a person a sense of restraint and a desire to act in a commendable way which is important for a fighter. Cooking and being nutrition conscious is good for a fighter and so is self defense. The main point though, is that everything I learn in martial arts, leaves the fight with me and becomes my character. Long story short it seems my keys to success in and out of the gym are to let my head rule over my heart, to use my body and physical resources properly and to put my training to use in every situation.
Zalewski told the Sun Sentinel that Rajman was also teaching children at a local Jewish community school.
“He was always smiling, never had a bad day,” Lamar Brown, a fellow MMA fighter, told the Palm Beach Post. “But as nice as he was outside the cage, he was just as tough inside it.”
5. A Judge Denied Bail for the Teen Trio, Who Could Face Life in Prison or the Death Penalty, During a Saturday Court Appearance
Summer Church, Jace Swinton and Roberto Ortiz appeared in court Saturday morning for their first appearance and were denied bail, according to court records. The first-degree premeditated murder charge carries a potential sentence of life in prison or the death penalty. Armed home invasion also carries a potential life sentence.
“This was no random act of violence,” Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, said in a statement. “Mr. Rajman was targeted by these defendants, and we intend to seek justice for the victim and his family.”
Rajman’s girlfriend, Emily Imber, told the Palm Beach Post, “I’m grateful they were caught. I hope they get all of them. This has been devastating.”
Church’s mother, Judi, told WPBF-TV that prosecutors needed someone to charge, so they arrested her daughter and her daughter’s former boyfriend, Swinton. She said her daughter doesn’t know anything else about the case, but detectives did not believe her.
“They said ‘all we have is Summer and Jace, and the State Attorney is willing to charge them each as adults for murder because we don’t have anything else and we think she knows something else,” and I said ‘she doesn’t know anything else,’”