ATLANTIC CITY — The woman stabbed to death in her North Harrisburg Avenue home Saturday night was a longtime casino worker and Honduran immigrant who suffered a string of tragedies years ago but recovered with the help of the community.

On Tuesday, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office identified the victim as Bessy Blanco, 54.

Blanco was in her 30s when she stepped in to raise two of her sister’s children after their parents and a sibling were killed in a horrific car crash on Route 30 in Egg Harbor City a week before Christmas 2000, according to Press of Atlantic City accounts at the time.

Then, just weeks from buying a home in 2001 with the help of people who rallied around her family, her husband, Arnoldo, died, and the real estate closing could not go forward.

But with continued support from the community, the Unite Here Local 54 union and four casinos that had employed Blanco, her husband, her sister and her brother-in-law, she eventually was able to buy a home on North Harrisburg Avenue, said state Sen. Jim Whelan, who was involved in helping the family years ago.

“It’s just a terrible tragedy. She was an unbelievably courageous woman, a very strong, determined woman who overcame so many obstacles in the course of her life,” said Whelan. “To have it end like this is heartbreaking. It is a loss to the entire community, really.”

Blanco and 52-year-old Mark Richart, of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, were stabbed in Blanco’s home Saturday night. Richart remains in AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Jose B. Lopez, 51, of Oakland Avenue in Ventnor, was arrested Sunday morning and charged with murder, attempted murder and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes. He is being held in the Atlantic County jail in Mays Landing.

The 2000 accident happened when a sport utility vehicle skidded on a patch of ice on Route 30 near 14th Terrace in Egg Harbor City and hit a stone-loaded dump truck coming the other way. The crash killed Felix Manuel Zelaya, 41; his wife, Ruth Consuelo Gomez-Rodriguez, 42; and daughter Ruth Tatiana Zelaya, 13, all of Brigantine.

The family was starting a trip to Washington, D.C., a friend said at the time, perhaps to visit Immigration and Naturalization offices to renew Zelaya’s Employment Authorization Card.

Badly injured in the crash were the couple’s younger children, Angie Zelaya-Gomez, then 6; and Felix Manuel Zelaya, then 10. After months in the hospital, the two children moved in with Blanco, who had two children of her own, Rudy, then 8; and Ana, 13.

Now adults, none of the children could be reached for comment.

Rebecca Blanco has set up a fundraising page to help the family with Bessy Blanco’s funeral costs. The page had raised more than $1,800 as of Tuesday night, with a goal of $15,000.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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