In a crime Police Chief Daniel Racine called “one of the worst acts of violence in recent memory,” a city man allegedly kidnapped a 58-year-old woman from her front porch, took her to his apartment and raped her Sunday night.
The victim later led detectives to the Tremont Street residence where the assault took place, police said. The suspect, 38-year-old Angel Luis Cruz, was eventually found near his apartment and arrested.
Cruz, of 186 Tremont St., Apt. 1, was arraigned Monday on charges of kidnapping, aggravated rape, assault with a dangerous weapon and intimidating a witness. He was ordered held in custody pending a dangerousness hearing set for Aug. 3.
Defense lawyer James Powderly made no argument for bail. Instead, he asked to be allowed to make that argument at the dangerousness hearing.
The victim was likely chosen at random, said police spokesman Sgt. Paul Gauvin. “There’s nothing to believe he knew her.”
The middle-aged Asian victim was treated and released at Charlton Memorial Hospital, Gauvin said.
“She came home at 5:30 or 6 this morning,” the woman’s oldest son, 38, said after Cruz’s arraignment. “With the comfort of her neighbors and family, I think she is glad to be home.
“She is angry. She is so small, she couldn’t defend herself.”
Police said the victim was dragged from her porch near Alden and Harrison streets about 7:30 p.m. One of her sons witnessed the abduction and briefly gave chase, providing police with a description of the suspect's car and a partial license plate number.
An hour later, the “visibly upset” victim was walking toward her home and told police she had been dropped off in the area of Quarry and Lebanon streets.
She told them she was threatened with physical violence and “the suspect continually told the victim that he would assault her with tools that were lying on the floor of the car,” reports said.
She told police she was physically forced into the Tremont Street apartment and sexually assaulted.
With the help of landmarks, descriptions and witnesses, police identified Cruz as the suspect. Detective John McDonald located the suspect a short time later in his Nissan Sentra near his residence. He was immediately taken into custody.
McDonald and Detective Lawrence Ferreira executed a search warrant early Monday and police levied the charges against Cruz. The rape charge carries a life sentence in state prison, Gauvin said.
“This attack is one of the worst acts of violence in recent memory. The assault and abduction of this victim is disturbing and shocking, even to seasoned investigators,” Racine said. “While we are remorseful the attack occurred, I am pleased the officers were able to locate and apprehend the suspect in short order. Our hearts go out to the victim and her family.”
The woman’s son and several other relatives sat quietly in District Court during the arraignment. When Cruz was lead into the courtroom and placed in the prisoner’s dock, which is surrounded by glass, he never glanced in their direction.
“I wanted to climb over the bench when I saw him,” the woman’s son said. “They put that glass there for a reason.”
The police department’s Major Crimes detectives and Crime Scene Identification units took part in the investigation. A massive search was conducted prior to the arrest, with Environmental Police searching the Fall River/Freetown reservation area.
Officer Alan Beausoleil responded initially to the scene and interviewed the victim’s son, reports said.
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Chantra Say is too dangerous to walk the streets of the city, a judge ruled Friday.
But his friend, Mary Huot, can go free because her brother promised to watch over her.
Say, 19, of Stevens Street, and Huot, 19, of Fordney Street, appeared before District Court Judge Lance Garth to fight the prosecution argument that they should be held in custody until they can be tried on charges of attempted murder.
Those two, plus Jessika Sardinha, 19, of Edgemont Street, are charged in connection with the shooting of Stephen Ponte, 20, and Stephen Howland, 20, both of Hartwell Street, at the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Rodman Street on July 1 at 11:35 p.m.
“They both present a danger to the citizens of Fall River,” prosecutor Carolyn Morrissette argued Friday during a dangerousness hearing held for Say and Huot. “The shooting was in a heavily travelled part of the city and there were several people about.
“The victims did suffer extensive injuries. Mr. Stephen Howland has a shattered femur. He will require surgery to repair it.”
Morrissette called one witness to the stand. Officer Thomas DeMello reported he was the first police officer to arrive at the shooting, pulling up just moments after it occurred when he saw three witnesses flag down his police cruiser.
Howland was lying on the ground outside the Shell gas station, bleeding from wounds. Ponte was inside with bystanders starting first aid, DeMello said.
Moments later, officers stopped a Geo Tracker on Hartwell Street and Say, Huot and Sardinha were arrested. Police say they also recovered a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol from the car, its clip empty, its slide locked back — something that happens when a semi-automatic pistol his fired until it is empty.
Police allege Sardinha borrowed her mother’s car and then drove Say and Huot to a parking lot behind the Shell station to let off another friend at Straight Shooters, a pool hall.
On their way there, they drove by Ponte and Howland, who were on foot, crossing Plymouth Avenue at Rodman Street. Say and the two men shouted at each other as they passed.
When Sardinha drove into the parking lot, Say and Huot got out of the Tracker and went through a fence into the Shell property.
Sardinha later told police she heard gunshots and drove away, pulling onto Plymouth Avenue north before turning around to drive south on Plymouth Avenue. She saw Say and Huot run across Plymouth Avenue, so she stopped to pick them up and then drove away until she was stopped.
James Powderly, the lawyer for Huot, said nothing in the prosecution case justified denying bail to Huot.
“There is nothing in her history to suggest she is a dangerous person,” Powderly argued. “Mere presence at the scene of the crime is not enough to prove joint venture.
“There is no evidence at all that Ms. Huot knew there was a gun in the car, knew there was going to be a shooting or did anything after the shooting other than to flee.”
All three co-defendants are charged with attempted murder, illegal possession of a gun and assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution alleges Say had the pistol when he got into the car and he was the only one to handle or fire the gun.
Ken Van Colen, Say’s lawyer, asked the court to release Say to home confinement while awaiting trial.
“There is more to this than just a random shooting,” Van Colen said. “Given that, are the people of Fall River in danger?”
The law requires prosecutors to begin trial within 90 days when a defendant is denied bail, but generally the court allows that time to be extended.
“The commonwealth is making a promise to the court that they will try my client within 90 days,” Van Colen said. “I have yet to see that happen in previous cases.”
Say was ordered held in custody pending trial. Huot was released to her brother’s custody but was ordered to report weekly to the Fall River police, refrain from drugs or alcohol and to observe a curfew of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Bail was previously set at $10,000 for Sardinha.
The case will be referred to a grand jury for prosecution in Superior Court. If prosecutors do not present the matter to a grand jury before Aug. 4, the case will return to District Court for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
A conviction on the charge of attempted murder with a gun carries a maximum sentence of 20 years with a 10 year minimum sentence.
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