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Corona man arrested in Christmas Eve slay

A violent felon who spent nearly a decade in prison for killing a person in 1989 was responsible for fatally shooting a Corona bartender in the face on Christmas Eve, police sources said.

Roberto Tavarez, 37, of Corona was arrested in the Bronx Feb. 9 by detectives from the 115th Precinct, police said.

He was arraigned Feb. 10 on charges of second−degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon and held without bail, the Queens district attorney’s office said. His next court date is Feb. 24. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison, the DA’s office said.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 24, 2008, Tavarez was allegedly drinking and gambling in an illegal social club at 35−54 98th St., a police source said. After losing a card game, Tavarez, angry over the money he lost, allegedly got up to buy a drink from bartender Felix Diaz, 40, of Corona, the source said.

Tavarez allegedly got into an argument with Diaz and pulled out a gun and shot him in the face, the source said.

In a cold−blooded turn, the occupants of the club spent at least an hour cleaning up the room and allegedly helping Tavarez escape before calling 911 to aid Diaz, the police source said. After the call was made around 5:15 a.m., Diaz was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he died, police said.

The 5−foot−4 Tavarez, who sources said goes by the nickname “Little Man,” has a long history of arrests dating back to drug use and robbery charges in 1987. In 1989, he was arrested on suspicion of second−degree murder, the source said. Tavarez spent eight years in prison on a manslaughter conviction before being released in 1999, according to state Corrections Department records.

Tavarez was again imprisoned in 2002 on drug possession charges, Corrections records show. He was released in June 2008, but was arrested again in August on suspicion of DWI, the source said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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