Before sunrise Thursday, the silence in a West Kendall neighborhood was pierced by dozens of rounds of gunfire that tore through the front door of a home, shattered a sliding glass window, and killed a young man and his mother.
Gale Sikora, 62, a registered nurse, and her son Anthony Sikora, 23, a Miami Dade College student, were killed inside their townhouse at 14333 SW 97th Ter., in a neighborhood called Arbor Court.
Late Thursday night, after a full day of interviews and a sweep of his West Kendall home, police arrested Ronnie Candelaria, 21, and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder and armed robbery.
Police said Candelaria — a friend of Anthony Sikora — told them voices inside his head had made him commit the murders. Inside his home, where police had stood watch for most of Thursday, they found an AK-47 and a Glock handgun.
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Candelaria was originally taken into custody by Miami-Dade police only three blocks from the crime scene and within minutes of the 4:25 a.m. shootings. Witness descriptions of Candelaria and his car helped officers in apprehending the suspect.
“It looks like he tried to shoot out the deadbolt to get in the front door. He went to the side of the house and blew open the sliding glass door. Once inside, he continued shooting. He must have shot over 30 rounds,” said Miami-Dade police detective Alvaro Zabaleta.
Candelaria lives in a home with his mother and father at 14257 SW 102nd St., about six blocks from where he is alleged to have killed Sikora and her son. Miami-Dade property records show that the home belongs to Wilfredo and Anania Candelaria, who are believed to be Ronnie Candelaria’s parents. An officer outside the Candelaria home on Thursday blocked access to the front door, citing an ongoing investigation at the property. Calls to the family phone rang busy.
A close friend of Anthony Sikora described Candelaria as a loner fascinated by guns and always trying to intimidate people. Marcel de Vivo, 24, who attended Miami Dade College with Sikora, said that a few months ago — seemingly out of nowhere — Sikora mentioned that a friend of his named Ronnie was “freaking him out.”
“I told him that Ronnie was all talk,” de Vivo said. “This is unbelievable. It makes no sense.”
Friends described Anthony Sikora as being into wrestling, pyrotechnics and rap music. Lance Gam, 19, who took a Spanish class at MDC with Sikora, said he was an interesting kid who usually kept to himself.
“He really didn't have that many people to talk to,” said Gam, adding that Sikora was known for his “huge wizard beard” and for saying shocking things.
Gale Sikora was a registered nurse at Baptist Hospital Miami who worked in the performance improvement department. In a brief statement, Baptist Chief Operating Officer Randy Lee called Sikora a “wonderful employee.”
“Our hearts go out to Gale’s family and colleagues,” Lee said.
The sequence of events that broke the peace at Arbor Court on Thursday morning — a typical West Kendall community of landscaped yards and tree-lined streets — began shortly before 4:30 a.m. when police radioed that a schizophrenic man who had not taken his medication had stolen a car from the Candelaria home.
Later, police said that the man’s parents had called 911 to report that their son had taken their car without permission. Moments later, dozens of rounds of gunfire erupted at the Sikora home, a two-bedroom, two-floor tan stucco townhouse, only six blocks from where the Candelaria car had been taken.
A woman who didn’t want to give her name said she was awake when she heard the first shots but was too frightened to go outside.
“I just heard the gun, then it stopped for one minute, and then I heard it again. I was too scared to come out,” she said.
Her statement matched police accounts of the Sikoras’ front door being shot up, then a brief break before the sliding glass doors on the side of the home were blasted out to gain entry.
Police soon found a man, later identified as Candelaria, in a white Toyota at Southwest 145th Avenue and 95th Street and took him into custody. Inside the car on the passenger seat, detective Zabaleta said, were several weapons and dozens of rounds of ammunition. Zabaleta said the suspect was taken into custody without incident.
Police credited the suspect’s capture to his parents and police officers who lived nearby and were sound asleep at the time of the shooting. When the shooting began, several off-duty officers in the Arbor Court neighborhood responded to the gunfire, called in witness accounts and went to secure the Sikora home, where they found the bodies.
Zabaleta said the shooting was not over a domestic issue and that no one else was in the Sikora home when the mother and her son were killed.
Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.