HYANNIS - A murder story that seemed like it couldn't get any more gruesome did just that yesterday when the half brother of 16-year-old Jordan Mendes - whose body was found burning in a pit in the woods on Tuesday - was charged in his death.
Though authorities did not name the 13-year-old juvenile, defense attorney Robert L. Jubinville and friends of the brothers confirmed that Mykel Mendes was among the three who faced charges yesterday in the armed robbery and slaying. However, Jubinville said, "He denied having a hand in the harm that came to his brother."
The motive for the slaying was greed, said Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe. Jordan Mendes was a "significant drug dealer" of OxyContin and other substances and had $10,000 on him, he said.
At a news conference yesterday, O'Keefe announced that two 13-year-olds and a 20-year-old, Robert B. Vacher, had been charged. The suspects are accused of shooting Mendes in the torso and cutting his throat Monday about 2:30 p.m. as they stole the money, he said. A day later, Vacher and the aunt of one of the juveniles bought a silver BMW, according to a police report. The name of the other 13-year-old could not be confirmed.
The Mendes family has experienced tragedy: Jordan's uncle, Danuel, was killed by a cousin in 2002. Manuel Mendes, the father of Jordan and Mykel, is serving a 35-year federal sentence for dealing cocaine. He was operating a drug ring while serving a sentence at the Plymouth County House of Correction.
O'Keefe would not say where the killing occurred, but a police report indicates it was in a house on Arrowhead Drive. The police report said Mendes was walking downstairs to a basement bedroom when Vacher - using a gun supplied by the juvenile identified as Mykel Mendes - shot him.
"After shooting Mendes, Vacher repeatedly stabbed Mendes in the neck," the police report said.
According to the police report, the juvenile identified as Mykel Mendes helped lure his brother to the house. Jubinville said his client, Mykel Mendes, faces that accusation in addition to being accused of providing the gun. The other juvenile allegedly supplied the knife and helped Vacher dispose of the body.
Vacher and the other 13-year-old allegedly rolled the body in a rug and drove it to the woods off Jennifer Lane. They left Mendes's body in a pit that had previously been dug for a makeshift paintball course but that authorities said had recently been widened and deepened. A day later, they returned with a can of gasoline and set his body on fire, the police report said.
Yesterday, dozens of teens and adults made their way down the winding path off Jennifer Lane to stand around the pit where Jordan Mendes's body was found. A wooden cross signed with dozens of names had been stuck in the sandy soil at the pit's edge, like a headstone; at the opposite end, a large cross fashioned from discarded 4-by-4 beams has been erected. A dozen small bouquets of flowers lay in the hole.
Jordan Mendes's mother visited the site and was helped into the pit where her son's body was found. Wearing a T-shirt with a large black-and-white photograph of her son, and the words "Jordan RIP," a weeping Paula Carberry was then helped out of the pit by a young man. She declined to speak to a reporter.
Among those visiting the memorial were a brother and sister who said they knew the Mendes family. They said Jordan and his younger brother were close and that they lived together until recently. They were shocked that Mykel had been charged in the killing.
"Jordan was a great kid. He was all goofy, funny, and making jokes," said the brother, who asked that his name not be published. "He and Mykel, they went everywhere together. . . . It's just odd. If Mykel wanted something, Jordan would have bought it for him, and if Jordan didn't have the money, he would have found it somehow. It's not right."
The sister, who also spoke on the condition that her name not be published, described Jordan as being a "bright-light personality" who easily made friends. If Mykel did what he stands accused of, she said, he must have been forced to do it, because he would have never harmed his brother. While authorities describe Jordan as a drug dealer, she said, his friends and family knew him as a devoted, caring individual.
The two 13-year-olds were arraigned in Barnstable Juvenile Court behind closed doors yesterday. If convicted, the teens would remain in Department of Youth Services custody until they reach 18. Then, DYS would have to ask the court to keep them in custody each year until age 21, when they would be released.
Because of their age, they cannot be tried as adults for murder, but O'Keefe said the crime should spur lawmakers to revise the state's juvenile offender law, which sets the minimum age for trial for murder at 14.
"It's obviously an absurdity that these two defendants can only be held as delinquent children, and I will be filing a piece of legislation to correct that," O'Keefe said in an interview. "It won't, obviously, impact this case, but for the future, the law simply has to catch up to the activities of these kinds of people."
Vacher, 20, is charged with first-degree murder as an adult and if convicted, could face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Yesterday, he appeared briefly in Barnstable District Court and pleaded not guilty to charges of armed robbery and murder charges. Vacher was ordered held without bail until a full bail argument, which is set for Jan. 14.
His attorney, Joseph Krowski Sr. of Brockton, described Vacher as being "very emotional."
"He's pretty shaken up," he said of the charges he faces.
Vacher appears to have a limited criminal history and has no other cases in Barnstable District Court.
William Gens and Patrick Mead, defense attorneys for the other 13-year-old, said their client was overwhelmed by the trouble he finds himself in.
"He was crying," Mead said. "He was bawling his eyes out. He's a scared 13-year-old."