20-year-old, two 13-year-olds charged, one of latter said to be victim's brother
HYANNIS - Three individuals, including a 20-year-old man and two unnamed 13-year-old youths, have been charged in the murder and robbery of 16-year-old Jordan Mendes, according to Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe.
The 20-year-old, Robert Vacher (right) of South Yarmouth, and the two juveniles were arraigned at Barnstable District Court on Friday. The two youths cannot be tried as adults as they are under 17. The Cape Cod Times is reporting that one of the two accused 13-year-old boys is Mykel Mendes, Jordan's younger half-brother, and the other 13-year-old is Kevin Ribero.
An unnamed source claimed the half-brother was afraid of the victim.
The victim, O'Keefe said, knew Vacher and the other juvenile.
Under state law, O'Keefe said, the two 13-year-olds cannot be tried as adults. Even if convicted of murder, they may be released from the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services when they turn 18 and must be released when they turn 21.
DA: $10,000 stolen from murdered youth was used to buy a BMW
The arrests were announced at a press conference held late Friday morning.
An autopsy was conducted Thursday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston. According to a statement by O'Keefe's office, the victim, a sophomore at Barnstable High School, had been shot once and stabbed multiple times.
The medical examiner ruled the cause of death was a gunshot woundto the torso with perforation of the liver and colon, and sharp forceinjury to the head and neck including the trachea and major bloodvessels.
O'Keefe said either the gunshot or the stabbing wounds would have sufficed to kill the victim, and certainly in combination.
On Friday, the Boston Globe quoted a police report filed in district court by the Barnstable police that said that one 13-year-old supplied a knife and another supplied a gun to Vacher. The report said Mendes was lured to a home in Arrowhead Drive, where Vacher allegedly shot Mendes and cut his throat.
O'Keefe said Friday that the police had recovered one of the weapons used in the murder, but would not specify which one.
Body was moved after murder
According to the report, the body was rolled into a carpet and brought to the wooded area off Jennifer Lane, where it was thrown in the hole. The following night, police said, the trio came back with a gasoline can and lit the body on fire.
The district attorney said the motive for the crime apparently was money.
O'Keefe said the three took about $10,000 in cash off Mendes, who O'Keefe said was a "significant drug dealer."
Last week, according to a source, Mendes was said to have been flashing as much as $7,000 around his school.
The district attorney said Mendes used the money to buy drugs.
Asked how long the 16-year-old Mendes had been active in the drug trade, O'Keefe replied that the youth was "someone who's not unknown to police."
On Tuesday morning, O'Keefe said, Vacher and the two youths, accompanied by the aunt of one of the youths, used the money to buy a silver BMW automobile from a car dealer in the greater Hyannis area.
The family of Jordan Mendes had told authorities that he and his younger brother, Mykel, had not returned home Monday evening.
The autopsy places the time of death around 2:30 p.m. Monday at a different location from where the body was found. Mendes's burning body was discovered Tuesday evening around 7:40 p.m. in a hole off Jennifer Lane in Hyannis after Barnstable police and Hyannis firefighters responded to several 911 calls of an outdoor fire in that area.
"This is a very disturbing event," O'Keefe said at Friday's press conference, held at the Barnstable police station. "It's certainly even more disturbing when you consider the age of the participants."
The district attorney said the case is going to cause some people to look at the current Massachusetts guidelines for the age at which juveniles can be tried as adults, and whether that age should be lowered.
"Obviously, people today are committing more and more violent acts at a younger and younger age," O'Keefe said.
Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald said the killing wasn't a random act. O'Keefe said he doesn't anticipate any further arrests immediately connected to the case.
On Thursday afternoon, Vacher was arraigned at district court before Judge Robert F. Welch III. A plea of not guilty was entered for him. The district attorney's office and Vacher's attorney, Joseph Krowski Sr., agreed that Vacher will be held without bail until a bail hearing, which is scheduled for Jan. 14.
Vacher, who had been crying, wept bitterly as he sat in the dock. He initially held up the sleeve of his sweatshirt to shield his face, and later hung his head down so that only the top of his head could be seen.
Several young men walked out of the courthouse following Vacher's arraignment. "They killed my friend," one of them said.
An woman sitting in court also wept as she watched Vacher in the dock. Following his arraignment, she raced out of the courtroom and across the parking lot, accompanied by another woman.
A couple of minutes later, several young men walked out of the courtroom.
"They killed my friend," one of them said.
Vacher's arraignment was held up until Krowski could travel from Fall River to Barnstable.
Krowski said Thursday afternoon that he had just been introduced to Vacher, and had only had about five minutes to meet with him before the arraignment. The courthouse was scheduled to close at 2 p.m. because of the pending snowstorm.
"He's pretty emotional at this point," Krowski said of his client. "He's pretty shaken up."
The attorney said he believes Vacher just turned 20.
One juvenile defendant said to be 'scared to death'
Attorney Robert Jubinville of Milton is representing Mendes's half-brother.
"He was scared, he was nervous, he was very upset, he was emotional," Jubinville said. "He denied any involvement in the injuring and killing of his brother.
"This is obviously a terrible crime, a very emotionally driven crime," the attorney said. The burning of the body, he said, was an obvious way to try to cover up the death.
The Mendes boys come from a troubled family. Their father by different mothers, Manuel Mendes, is serving a 35-year sentence in federal prison while running a Cape Cod drug ring from a state prison in Plymouth. Jordan Mendes's uncle, Danuel Mendes, was the victim of a murder in Hyannis.
Attorneys William Gens and Patrick Mead are representing one of the two 13-year-olds accused of the crime.
"He was upset," Mead said about his client, who appeared in a juvenile courtoom closed to the press. "He was bawling his eyes out."
O'Keefe and MacDonald praised the Barnstable police detectives, particularlyDet. Lieut. Sean Balcom and Det. Brian Guiney, for working literallyaround the clock on the case since the victim's body was discoveredTuesday evening.
Mead said the boy is "scared to death" and looks like he hasn't slept for weeks.
Gens said details provided to the defense attorneys so far are sparse. "It's just a generalized account of a robbery and murder," he said.
At this point, Gens said, he's not aware of any physical evidence or forensic evidence linking his client to the crime.
"This case appears to be a work in progress," Gens said.
The juveniles are due to reappear in court in mid-January.
Chief MacDonald, asked at the press conference about the level of violent crime the Barnstable police are seeing, said department detectives have taken 64 weapons off the street in the past nine months. He said the department also has served 50 search warrants, which he said is "incredible for a department this size."
The chief said the warrants and weapons seizures reflect a change in philosophy and direction at the department in recent years. MacDonald said Barnstable detectives have become far more aggressive and pro-active in pursuing crime.
Chief MacDonald praised the Barnstable police detectives for working literally around the clock on the case since the victim's body was discovered Tuesday evening. O'Keefe singled out Det. Lieut. Sean Balcom and Det. Brian Guiney for their work on the case.
Booking photograph courtesy of Barnstable Police Department.
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