BOSTON, Oct. 9, 2013—A Chelsea man was ordered held without bail at his arraignment today on charges he murdered his 88-year-old landlady this summer, Hilda Devincenzo, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
FELIX MELENDEZ (D.O.B. 2/10/78) was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court this morning on charges of first-degree murder, robbery of a person over 60, and receiving stolen property over $250. At the request of Assistant District Attorney Tara Burdman, Clerk Magistrate Connie Wong ordered Melendez held without bail.
“Thanks to the professionalism of Chelsea’s first responders and the careful, methodical work of investigators, we now have a much clearer picture of what happened in Ms. Devincenzo’s apartment,” Conley said. “It is, unfortunately, a deeply disturbing picture. We will do everything in our power to hold accountable the person responsible for this tragedy.”
According to prosecutors, Devincenzo lived by herself on the second floor of a three-family home on Washington Avenue in Chelsea. Melendez was a third-floor tenant.
On July 3, Burdman told the court, Melendez allegedly told a neighbor that he was performing electrical repairs for Devincenzo and that she was “driving him crazy” with her requests that everything be fixed. Later that afternoon, the neighbor heard running, a scream, and a bang from the victim’s apartment and recognized the scream as being Devincenzo’s voice, prosecutors said.
Four days later, on July 7, Chelsea firefighters responded to the address after the smell of smoke was reported inside the building. Melendez allegedly told first responders that he had discovered a fire in the basement that he was able to extinguish. While at the home, firefighters were asked to perform a well-being check on Devincenzo.
Devincenzo was found dead inside her apartment. Her remains were in a state of decomposition, but the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined after autopsy that she died of compression to the neck and torso, causing fractures to her thyroid cartilage, ribs, spine, and sternum, prosecutors said.
Investigators soon learned that several of Devincenzo’s personal items were missing from her bedroom. The victim’s wedding band and engagement ring – which Devincenzo’s family told investigators the she always wore – were also missing from her body, prosecutors said.
The wedding band was recovered at an Everett jewelry shop where Melendez sold it, prosecutors said. Melendez provided his driver’s license as identification in order to complete the exchange and investigators obtained a photocopy of the license from the shop. The engagement ring was found inside Melendez’s apartment by officers executing a search warrant, prosecutors said.
In addition, a fingerprint found on a plastic bag in the victim’s bedroom was a match to one of the defendant’s fingers, prosecutors said.
An investigation by the Chelsea Fire Department, Chelsea Police, and State Police detectives assigned to Conley’s office later revealed that the fire that initially drew authorities to the Washington Avenue residence had been intentionally set, prosecutors said.
Kelly Hogan is the DA’s assigned victim witness advocate. Melendez is represented by attorney James Boudreau. He will return to court on Nov. 26.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.