A Rhode Island man who says he was framed for the 1988 killing of a 10-year-old girl on Tuesday sued four police officers and a Department of Health lab technician he alleges fabricated evidence that led to his false arrest and as a result ruined his life.
Pawtucket police with great fanfare in July 2019 announced the arrest of Joao Monteiro, 60, in connection with the January 1988 killing of Christine Cole based on DNA technology not available at the time of her death.
A judge last February dismissed a murder charge after the state attorney general’s office said in a filing that there was not enough evidence to present to a grand jury.
The Pawtucket officers took advantage of Monteiro’s limited English skills - he is an immigrant from Cape Verde - his attorneys including William Devine said in a statement.
The Department of Health worker who conducted the DNA work used to implicate Monteiro was also named as a defendant.
“To get away with this misconduct, defendants bypassed standard procedures by excluding representatives of the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General from the arrest process and by not seeking a grand jury indictment as the basis for an arrest,” his attorneys said.
Monteiro, a father of four, lost his job of 15 years and became homeless, they said.
“The immense trauma caused by the loss of his home, job and reputation have led to his inability to now work and function in society,” his attorneys said.
The DNA evidence, taken from the girl’s pants, did not pinpoint Monteiro as a suspect, the federal suit said.
“The only person that the DNA sample indicated a potential connection to was plaintiff’s son,” according to the suit. “The DNA sample did not directly implicate anyone, and plaintiff’s son was not born until five years after the girl died.”
The 10-count suit alleges malicious prosecution, arrest without probable cause, false imprisonment and denial of civil rights. It seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Pawtucket’s police chief, Tina Goncalves, who is named as a defendant, stood by her department’s work.
“In this particular case, the department met the burden of proof for probable cause with new testing for the DNA sample to administer an arrest,” she said in an emailed statement sent by a city spokesperson. “The Attorney General’s Office looked at the findings and stated that they would require more information. The Pawtucket Police Department is working closely with the assistant attorney general assigned to the case and remains committed to giving the family of 10-year-old Christine Cole closure.”
Monteiro continues to be “a prime suspect,” she said.
An email seeking comment was left with a spokesperson for the Department of Health.
The Pawtucket girl disappeared when she was sent to the store by her mother. Her body was found nearly two months later on a beach in Warwick. The medical examiner determined she died of “asphyxia with submersion.”
Monteiro and the girl didn’t know each other, but lived in the same neighborhood at the time, police said. Monteiro has always maintained his innocence.
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