Local News

Man Charged in Slaying of Flea Market Vendor

Posted March 26, 2007 7:39 a.m. EDT
Updated March 26, 2007 6:52 p.m. EDT

— Traffic problems, code violations, counterfeit wares—and a now murder: people at Watson's Flea Market on Rock Quarry Road are used to seeing police cars.

Since January of 2006, police have been called to the area 388 times. The majority of calls involved traffic issues, but violent crime has entered the heated debate about issues at the flea market.

Sunday morning, coworkers found a produce vendor, Pablo Ponce, 43, shot to death in his booth.

Raleigh police arrested Miguel Angel Rivera Goytortua, 22, and charged him with Ponces’s murder. He made his first appearance in  Wake County Court on Monday and seemed unaware of just how serious the charges against him are.

Through a translator, he repeatedly asked Judge Jane Gray where the belongings were that he had with him when he was processed into the Wake County Jail, where he was being held without bond. Gray explained to him that this was not an issue he needed to be worrying about at this point.

Investigators believe Ponce was killed sometime early Sunday morning. There is no word on a possible motive.

Mayor Charles Meeker said that since agents from the secretary of state’s office and city police raided the flea market Jan. 27, seizing a million dollars worth of counterfeit goods and arresting 15 people, the city has kept a close eye on Watson’s.

“This really has become a problem in that area, and something needs to be done,” Meeker said. “We thought we had clamped down some, but apparently not enough.”

On any given Saturday or Sunday, 15,000 people pour into the flea market. Raleigh City Councilor Phillip Isley's Law and Public Safety Committee has been monitoring problems there for months. He says it may now be time for the city to file a "nuisance action" against the market. It is the same tactic the city has used to cite and ultimately close problem nightclubs.

“Clearly, a murder is different than inconvenient traffic and problems with people parking. This has taken it to a different level,” Isley said. “It could close it or it could have some other dramatic impact, i.e. reducing hours of operation, just changing significantly what could occur there.”

Isley said he has been in conversations with the manager of the property, who says the owner, Ebern Watson of Duplin County, is interested in selling the land and getting out of the flea market business. According to the city, Watson has already made improvements such as improving traffic flow, removing debris and preventing parking in certain areas. In light of the recent violence, however, that may not be enough to keep the market open.