BOSTON, April 29, 2013—The state’s highest court recently upheld a career criminal’s 2004 conviction for the 1974 murder of 14-year-old Carlos Matos in Roxbury, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
The conviction ensures that RODOLFO CARR (D.O.B. 6/2/54), a.k.a. HONDURAS, will serve out his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for shooting Matos to death after an Aug. 5, 1974, dispute near a park on Dudley Street.
“This defendant settled his conflict with a 14-year-old boy by shooting him in the head with a rifle,” Conley said. “For 30 years, he tried to escape accountability for that act, only to claim on appeal that the very same delays he caused were grounds to reverse his conviction. Let this case be proof that we will follow the evidence wherever it leads, and for as long as it takes to find justice.”
Evidence introduced during the 2004 proceedings proved that Carr, then a Roxbury resident, was 20 years old when he and Matos were involved in a physical altercation on the day of the incident. At about 7:20 p.m., Carr – who lived across the street from the park – returned to the scene with a rifle. He kneeled, looked through the rifle’s scope at the boy, and pulled the trigger.
Matos was struck in the head and mortally wounded. Though witnesses rushed him to the hospital, he succumbed to his injuries 11 days later.
In the days following the murder, investigators obtained a Roxbury District Court complaint charging Carr with Matos’ homicide. Carr, however, eluded capture, fled Boston, and in September 1974 was arrested for robbery in Indiana under an alias.
Police in that state soon learned from an informant that Carr – who also used the names “Michael Sloane” and “Ivan Santa” – was wanted for murder in Boston, and contacted Boston Police. Detectives here sent them warrants for Carr’s arrest in order to hold him on a process unrelated to his robbery charge, but they released him in 1975 without notifying Boston Police after his acquittal on the robbery charge.
During the next 19 years, Carr was charged in Illinois and Indiana with four different crimes under four different names. In 1994, Boston Police learned that he was in custody in Indiana and sent two detectives to interview him. At that time, Carr claimed that his name was “Ivan Santa” and that he had never been to Boston. Undeterred, Boston Police notified Indiana authorities that he was wanted for murder in Boston, and in 1997 Carr waived rendition proceedings and returned to the city he had earlier fled.
Coincidentally, a Boston Police detective had gone to high school with Carr years earlier, recognized him from a wanted poster prepared after the shooting, and picked him up with two other detectives when he arrived at Logan Airport. That detective identified Carr at trial.
On appeal, Carr claimed that his right to a speedy trial had been violated by the three-decade span between when he was first charged and when he was found guilty. In a 16-page decision released on April 16, Justice Barbara Lenk disagreed.
“That Indiana authorities inexplicably allowed the defendant to go free upon his acquittal of the robbery charge, notwithstanding the Commonwealth’s clear requests that the defendant be detained, is not attributable to the Commonwealth,” Lenk wrote. “In any event, the defendant’s use of aliases with authorities in the Midwest, and the assertion of a false identity to Boston police, permit the inference that he was attempting to evade prosecution for the shooting during this period … A defendant may not evade prosecution by intentionally and successfully delaying his trial and thereafter maintain that his constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated by such delay.”
Carr also claimed that the loss of the murder weapon during the intervening years prejudiced his ability to receive a fair trial, a position that a Suffolk Superior Court had already rejected prior to trial.
“Concluding that the missing evidence was not of any clear benefit to the defendant, and, to the contrary, that it was more likely to prejudice the Commonwealth, the first judge denied the motion to dismiss,” Lenk wrote. “The defendant offers little more than speculation to support his claim that access to the rifle, ammunition, and bullet fragment could have yielded favorable evidence, suggesting, for instance, that the rifle might have yielded fingerprints other than his, notwithstanding a 1974 police report stating that there were no fingerprints on the rifle.”
Carr further argued that the introduction of Matos’ death certificate at trial violated his confrontation rights under the Sixth Amendment because he could not cross-examine the medical examiner who prepared it. The high court ruled that this was an error, but one that had minimal effect on the jury’s verdict.
“While the admission of the death certificate absent the medical examiner’s testimony thus violated the defendant’s right to confrontation, the cause of death was not a disputed issue at trial,” Lenk wrote. Four witnesses testified that they saw the defendant shopot the victim in the head and also testified to visiting the victim in the hospital and to his subsequent death eleven days after the shooting. In these circumstances, we are satisfied that the admission of the death certificate was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Assistant District Attorney Amanda Teo argued in defense of Carr’s conviction. Assistant District Attorney Edmond Zabin, now chief of the DA’s Homicide Unit, tried the case in 2004. Carr was represented on appeal by attorney Russell Sobelman.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.