Friend of Downtown Roanoke assault victim speaks out after man charged

ROANOKE, Va. – A month after a man was killed in a Downtown Roanoke assault, the suspect has been arrested and charged. Now, the victim’s friends are sharing what they think of the new development in the case.

Brian Salazar is charged with the second-degree murder of Paul Wortham.

[Roanoke man dies from serious injuries after assault, police say]

After over a month and no arrest, friends said they’re glad to see some progress in the case.

“He’d only been here for a little over a year, but he had close friends,” friend Cary Leeth said. “Everybody loved him.”

That’s why Leeth and others were so upset when they heard Wortham was assaulted in Downtown.

Wortham was found unresponsive in the lobby area of the Parkway building apartments in the early morning hours of July 4, police said.

Court documents show Wortham was taken to the hospital and put on life support for ten days before he died.

“It was at least a week before we ever really knew anything,” Leeth said

According to the search warrant, surveillance video reveals Wortham was punched in the face, fell to the ground, and hit his head.

Police said the suspect left the scene but later returned and was interviewed by officers.

Flash forward to over a month later, a grand jury indicted Salazar on a second-degree murder charge.

“I’d never heard of him,” Leeth said. “Know nothing about him.”

It’s just another mystery in the story. Friends just weeks ago learned Wortham had been going by a different name – Jay Wright.

“A lot of things run through your mind, but we, the people who know him know that he’s a good person,” Leeth said. “He’s a very upstanding citizen, and I don’t guess we’ll ever know why he used Jay as his name.”

Leeth said that doesn’t change how he feels about his friend. Now he’s looking toward the future and what comes out of the courtroom.

“I don’t know what kind of conviction he’ll get, that’s up to the judge, but it’ll never bring Jay back,” Leeth said.

Salazar is due back in court on September 5.

About the Author:

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.