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Teen, mother were slain after a grand jury date

Link to previous killing investigated

Boston Police kept watch outside the Roslindale three-decker where a teenager, his mother, and her friend were shot last week. Boston Police kept watch outside the Roslindale three-decker where a teenager, his mother, and her friend were shot last week. (Bill Brett for The Boston Globe)
By Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / August 19, 2011

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A Roslindale teenager and his mother were fatally shot this month after the youth appeared at a courthouse where investigators wanted him to testify before a grand jury looking into a homicide, according to several public safety officials with knowledge of the case.

Seventeen-year-old Elvis Sanchez, who was killed Aug. 7, was believed to have knowledge of the June 5 killing of Wilfredo Martinez, a 23-year-old cook who was slain in the housing development near Sanchez’s Roslindale home.

Investigators believe the homicides are connected and have been examining whether Sanchez’s appearance at the courthouse could have led to his death, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.

It was unclear what, if anything, Sanchez told authorities about the June 5 shooting, which left another man injured. Although the officials told the Globe that Sanchez was brought to court in the hope he would testify, Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said that Sanchez was “not a cooperating witness’’ in Martinez’s homicide or any other slaying.

Diomedes Pimentel, who lost his daughter and grandson in the shooting, said a relative told him that the two went to court together but was unaware of what transpired there.

They died “savagely,’’ he said. “You never think something like this can happen.’’

The killing of Sanchez and his mother, Elvira Pimentel, 43, has renewed concerns about the risks of providing police with information about crimes, a longstanding problem in many Boston neighborhoods. It also underscores the struggle of witnesses who must decide whether to come forward when they live in neighborhoods where even the perception that one has cooperated with authorities can be deadly.

“People don’t understand that part of the reason why they’re uncooperative is because either themselves as individuals or their families are being threatened,’’ said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, executive director of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, an antiviolence organization.

Sanchez’s upstairs neighbor, 17-year-old Laquan Miller, was arrested July 25 in the shooting of Martinez. Miller, who was a student at South Boston Education Complex, has pleaded not guilty.

Wark declined to comment on the grand jury.

“It’s an open investigation, and we’re not in a position to discuss potential motives,’’ Wark said. “Moreover, individuals who do cooperate with our investigations have a wealth of assistance available to them,’’ including a relocation program for witnesses, their families, and anyone else who might be in danger.

Boston police declined to comment on the case, saying that the killings of Sanchez and Pimentel remain under investigation.

“We wouldn’t compromise the integrity of it by discussing it publicly at this point,’’ said Elaine Driscoll, the police spokeswoman. Sanchez “was someone that police were aware of.’’

Detectives are investigating other motives for the Aug. 7 shootings of Sanchez and his mother. A police captain publicly stated in the days after the killings that Sanchez was a suspect in Martinez’s death. On June 23, police picked up Sanchez at his house in a marked cruiser and brought him to headquarters for questioning, according to Conley’s office. His house was also searched and Sanchez was released.

Officials declined to say whether he remained a suspect in Martinez’s killing.

Suffolk prosecutors have frequently relocated key witnesses who testify for the state, particularly in cases involving gang violence, when intimidation has sometimes led to recantations and acquittals. State law allows prosecutors to enter into a written agreement with a witness who provides truthful information, testifies in court, and is willing to relocate.

Under the taxpayer-funded program, such witnesses and endangered relatives are housed in other parts of the state for several months.

“We don’t leave people alone with their fear, and all we ask in return is the truth,’’ Wark said.

Sanchez was informed of the services available to those who cooperate with investigators, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Other members of his family could not be reached for comment. The mother and son were buried in the Dominican Republic last weekend, according to their obituaries.

Sanchez and his mother were shot just before 4 a.m. inside their second-floor apartment in a three-decker on Washington Street. A 34-year-old man, whom officials identified as Pimentel’s boyfriend, was also shot but survived.

For several days after the attack, a police cruiser idled outside the home of one of Sanchez’s relatives in another section of the city, neighbors said. Driscoll declined to say why an officer had been assigned to the home.

Sanchez had been arrested on charges of gun possession in 2010, but had no other crimes on his record, according to court records.

Recently, he had been hanging out with a group connected to a housing development on Archdale Road in Roslindale, a law enforcement official said. The official described the group as a gang and said it also included Miller and Martinez.

Martinez was hanging outside on the steps of an apartment building in that development with his friend Kareem Dowling just after 10 p.m., when they were shot, a police report said.

A man kicked open the door of the building, cursed at them, and began shooting, Dowling’s father, Lloyd, said.

“It happened so quick,’’ Lloyd Dowling said about the assault, which his son later described to him. “All he could think about is, ‘What’s going [on]? What’s happening?’ ’’

Martinez was shot in the head, according to the report. Dowling, a Burger King manager, was shot in the arm and twice in the back, his father said. He is recovering, Lloyd Dowling said.

“Thank God for that,’’ he said. “His life was spared for a reason.’’

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follower her on twitter @GlobeMCramer.