A Massachusetts judge has sentenced an illegal alien to 17 to 19 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 2017 death of a beloved city educator who was strangled to death.
Superior court Judge Daniel M. Wrenn issued the sentencing for Jose Melendez, an illegal alien who also goes by the names Jose Segura and Jose Alvarado, on Jan. 18.
He was credited with 2,135 days already served in prison awaiting trial.
Melendez was aided by a Spanish interpreter during his court appearance.
Sandra “Buffy” Hehir, a 49-year-old teacher at Claremont Academy who had worked for Worcester Public Schools for more than a decade, was found dead in her apartment on Feb. 5, 2017. An autopsy determined the cause of her death was homicide by means of strangulation, police said.
At the time of her death, officials said that DNA evidence belonging to Melendez that was recovered from the crime scene was also linked back to a separate unsolved 2000 rape case, in which Melendez was a suspect.
Melendez Had Criminal Record
On the day that he was arraigned in Worcester Central District Court for the murder of Hehir, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed an immigration detainer on Melendez, who was born in the Dominican Republic but lived in Worcester, according to Mass Live.
Melendez, 60, had a previous criminal record, and had defaulted on probation he was serving in 2014 after being convicted of breaking and entering, Breitbart reported. He was also charged with two unrelated drug-related crimes at the time of his arrest for Hehir’s death.
Despite this, he was never deported from the United States prior to Hehir’s death.
Melendez had initially denied knowing Hehir or ever being at her apartment when interviewed by police, despite his DNA matching evidence from the scene of her murder.
But after citing evidence found at the crime scene, prosecutors charged him with murder. Wednesday’s sentencing is the result of a plea deal he entered ahead of a murder trial that was set to start next month.
Melendez’s attorney, Mark Bluver, told the court on Wednesday that his client wanted to plead guilty to accept responsibility, Telegram & Gazette reported.
“He wanted to be held accountable,” Bluver said of his client, who did not directly address the court.
Elsewhere, Hehir’s sister described to the court how the teacher was a thoughtful, dependable, brave, and hardworking individual who taught her students how important it is to be kind.
“Buffy was a dreamer, a strong soul, and went through life with a smile on her face,” her sister said.
‘Best Teacher in the World’
Corinne Tsouvalos, the best friend of Hehir, told the court that Hehir had lost her father early on in life but appreciated every second she had with family, friends, and her students at Claremont Academy.
Tsouvalos read out a comment from one of Hehir’s students on her memorial page which reads: “I will miss you, Ms Hehir. You will always be in my heart,” adding that she was the “best teacher in the world.”
In a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, Hehir’s family thanked Worcester police and prosecutors for their “hard work and effort” in closing the case.
“Our family has long awaited this day,” the family said. “One door opens to another door closed.”
In a separate statement to the Daily Voice, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said he hoped Wednesday’s plea deal would help bring peace to Hehir’s family and friends.
“It was the hard work by the Worcester police detectives together with our prosecutors and the state police crime lab that brought this suspect to justice,” Early said. “This plea will hopefully bring some measure of closure to Ms. Hehir’s family.”
The Epoch Times has contacted Melendez’s attorneys Michael Hussey and Mark Bluver for comment.