Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have confirmed that a man suspected in the murder of a beloved Worcester, Massachusetts, teacher’s aide is an illegal immigrant.
Sandra Hehir, 49, who was known to her friends and family as Buffy, was found dead in her apartment on February 5. An autopsy indicated that she had been strangled, according to MassLive.
ICE has placed a detainer, or a “hold,” on the suspect, which means that he is subject to deportation if or when he is released by state officials.
Multiple media accounts identify the suspect as Jose Melendez, 55, also of Worcester.
“Investigators allege Melendez assaulted and beat Sandra Hehir, killing her. Investigators say his DNA was found at murder scene,” NBC Boston reported.
He is in custody without bail, pending a court appearance on April 13 for purposes of a pre-trial hearing. He has entered a not-guilty plea.
In the suspect’s initial court appearance, he was permitted to hide behind a door to protect his identity.
As alluded to above, working with the state police crime lab, Worcester cops apparently made the bust as a result of evidence collected in a prior investigation. Prosecutors say that the suspect’s DNA from the crime scene matched the DNA from an unsolved rape from the year 2000 in Worcester, CBS Boston, WBZ-TV, noted.
Cops arrested the suspect earlier this month on an unrelated warrant. He reportedly has a long rap sheet, as well as several aliases.
The suspect’s attorney indicated that his client says doesn’t know the victim and denies ever setting foot in her apartment.
Sandra Hehir’s obituary explained that she was a beloved member of the staff and community.
“Buffy greeted all students daily with a smile and shared her message of the importance of earning a high school diploma, continuing on to college or vocational training, making good decisions and treating others with kindness.”
Worcester does not consider itself a sanctuary city, but according to the mayor, the police department doesn’t get involved in enforcing federal immigration law or checking the immigration status of someone detained for a petty crime, the Worcester Telegram reported.
Sanctuary cities are, in general, noncompliant with immigration law. On Monday, following-up President Trump’s previous executive order, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned sanctuary jurisdictions that they risk losing millions in federal funding if they maintain their current status particularly in connection with disregarding ICE detainers.
Sandra Hehir’s cousin told WBZ that she supports the Trump/Sessions policy to defund sanctuary cities and other such uncooperative jurisdictions.
“I just think whatever needs to be done for justice for her, if we have to stop funding then let’s do it. It hits home. It’s hard,” she remarked.
As part of his new administration, President Trump has prioritized the deportation of illegal alien felons.
About 167,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records were allegedly on the loose in the United States after being released by authorities, the Inquisitr reported in October, 2014. That was the assessment at the time of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) think tank in a study of Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics. According to a December, 2016, estimate from the Urban Institute, there are about 800,000 undocumented persons with criminal records in the U.S., although that includes those who have committed minor crimes.
Jeff Sessions also announced this week that the Trump administration is taking steps to speed up deportation of illegal immigrants held in U.S. jails, including bringing judges to the jails rather than transporting detainees to immigration courts.
“We owe it to the American people to ensure that illegal aliens who have been convicted of crimes and are serving time in our federal prisons are expeditiously removed from our country as the law requires,” Sessions declared, ABC News reported.
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