Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Woman Left to Die in Lawrence

"Woman shot to death in Lawrence" by Evan Allen and Katherine Landergan Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent  July 04, 2015

LAWRENCE — A 41-year-old woman died Saturday after she had been found suffering from a gunshot wound in her Lawrence home.

Mirta Rivera was found inside the first floor of a three-story home on Exchange Street at 4:26 a.m., with a gunshot wound in her abdomen, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

According to a law enforcement official, the gunshot appeared to have come through the ceiling of her apartment.

Rivera was taken to Lawrence General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, Kimball-Monahan said in a statement. She said the death is being treated as a homicide.

“The woman died of injuries related to a gunshot wound.”

No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting, though three people who live upstairs from the woman have been arrested on charges unrelated to the killing, Kimball-Monahan said.

She said the motive and circumstances of the slaying are under investigation, but that there is no threat to the public.

?????? How can they know that?

On Saturday afternoon, police tape hung from the mailbox at the front door. A police officer stood on the porch, and investigators walked in and out.

A group of about a dozen family members arrived at the scene and spoke with investigators. They were briefly allowed inside the home and came out carrying two small dogs. They asked for privacy.

Rivera moved in recently and kept to herself, neighbors said. “All of us in this neighborhood get along,” said Madeline Perez, who lives across the street. “We share, we have cookouts. We are good with each other. This is a surprise.”

Perez said she knew Rivera well enough to say hello, but did not know much about her. She lived with a man and some pets, and Perez said she often saw two young children, maybe 4 and 6 years old.

Perez, like other neighbors on the street, said they did not hear anything unusual early Saturday morning.

“Last night, with the fireworks, it’s confusing to identify the sounds,” said Perez.

Perez did remember one strange detail, however. On Thursday, she said, someone parked a black car with out-of-state plates in her backyard facing the home where the woman lived, got into a taxi, and left the car for two hours.

She initially thought it belonged to one of her neighbors, but when she spoke with them, they said they did not know anything about it.

“He wasn’t visiting,” she said.

Lawrence Police and State Police detectives assigned to the Essex district attorney’s office are conducting the probe into the killing.


NDUWoman’s shooting death leads to drug charges for neighbors


"Details emerge in sleeping woman’s shooting death in Lawrence; Shot was allegedly fired from apartment above Mirta Rivera" by Jan Ransom Globe Staff  July 06, 2015

LAWRENCE — The shooting death of a woman in a two-story house over the weekend led to the arrests of three men who were arraigned in Lawrence District Court Monday on drug charges.

Mirta Rivera was asleep Saturday morning when a bullet pierced through a hardwood floor in the apartment above, hitting her in the abdomen, traveling through her mattress and into the floor before bouncing back into her box spring.

Rivera’s boyfriend, Jorge Villalta, and responding officers tried to save her, but the 41-year-old woman was pronounced dead at Lawrence General Hospital.

Moments after the shooting, police discovered a bullet hole in the ceiling above Rivera’s bed, leading officers to a second-floor unit where they found three men, a woman, heroin and cocaine worth about $75,000, a scale, material for packaging drugs and firearms. When officers entered the unit around 4:26 a.m., the fresh stench of gunpowder hung in the air, police said.

Christopher Paganmoux, 23; Jose Lara-Mejia, 35; and Wilton Lara-Calmona, 38, were arraigned on charges of trafficking in heroin over 200 grams, trafficking in cocaine over 14 grams, and possession with intent to distribute a Class A substance near a school or park, according to court records.

All three men face a minimum of 12 years in prison. They were not charged in connection with the shooting and officials would not say whether further charges were pending. Authorities did not provide an explanation as to what led to the shooting.

Lawrence District Court Judge Lynn Rooney ordered Paganmoux, who faces an additional charge of trafficking heroine over 14 grams, held on $250,000 cash bail. Lara-Mejia and Lara-Calmona were ordered held on $500,000 cash bail.

Police found a black handgun between the mattress and box spring of a bed in the apartment on Exchange Street, court records show, as well as drug paraphernalia and a rifle.

A “mushroomed” bullet found in Rivera’s box spring matched the rifle and a casing that was found, police said.

Rivera’s daughter and son wept in the courtroom as assistant district attorney Karen Hopwood revealed the details of the case. They left without comment. They were accompanied by more than a dozen relatives and friends.

In arguing for a high bail, Hopwood told the court that Lara-Mejia has a warrant for deportation to the Dominican Republic and Lara-Calmona altered his fingerprints, making it difficult for the FBI to identify him. Paganmoux was arrested last month in Lawrence on drug charges and for allegedly driving while intoxicated, court records show.

That means one of them was an illegal immigrant from a really bad place.

Of course, just having the audacity to say the truth gets one in trouble these days.

State Police had pulled Paganmoux over on Tremont Street on June 18 for failing to signal. He was arrested after he failed a series of sobriety tests, records show. A small bag containing cocaine was found underneath the driver’s seat.

Lara-Mejia and three other people in a vehicle were arrested in February 2014 after police in Lawrence discovered heroin in a car they were traveling in. Drug-related charges were later dismissed.

Lara-Mejia is a painter and Lara-Calmona has been unemployed after an accident months ago left him disabled, their attorneys, Bill Sullivan and Pamela Rogers, said in court.

The attorneys said their clients were in a bedroom nowhere near where the shooting took place and that nothing connects them to a backpack full of drugs and paraphernalia found outside the house.

Attorney Kelli Ganz, who represented Paganmoux, said he has been a construction worker for the past six months. She said the prosecution’s case has holes.

“There are a great number of unanswered questions with regards to this case,” Ganz argued. “The room where the bullet went through the bedroom was not my client’s bedroom. These facts are really just about a young man who was merely present and this court knows merely being present is not a crime.”

Paganmoux’s girlfriend told police that she woke up to find him frantically pacing the room and when officers knocked on the door he jumped into the bed and pretended to be asleep, court records show.

On Exchange Street Monday afternoon, a makeshift memorial with flowers, candles, and a poster bearing a photo of Rivera with the words “Te Amo” scribbled across it — “I love you” in Spanish — was erected in front of the house.

“She was just a hard worker and a good parent,” said Frank Gaton, 29, who lives down the block from Rivera’s home. “I know people are very sad. We feel compassion for a pointless death.”

Neighbors said Rivera worked with the elderly and lived in the first-floor apartment with her daughter Francesca Nieves and her 9-year-old granddaughter.


Also see:

4 in Lawrence face charges in string of armed robberies

Fatal stabbing of man in Lawrence park investigated