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Man pleads not guilty in Everett woman’s killing

Hundreds attend funeral just before

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

Barbara and Walter Cormier left the courtroom carrying a photo of their slain daughter, Jessica, after an arraignment in Malden. They had just come from her funeral service.

Jessica Cormier.

MALDEN - She was witty, kind, and easygoing, which made Jessica Cormier the “best human being,’’ one friend said before her funeral yesterday.

Two hours later, the man accused of killing the 20-year-old Everett woman pleaded not guilty in her death.

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Cormier was killed by two stab wounds to the heart last Tuesday night on the porch of her home at Pearl Street, blows that Assistant Middlesex District Attorney Elizabeth Keeley said were delivered by Clarence Earl Berry, 59.

In Malden District Court yesterday, Berry pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder. Berry, whom the prosecutor said has at least one prior drug arrest, was ordered held without bail by Judge Dominic J. Paratore.

Berry’s defense lawyer, Cheryl McGillivray of Somerville, declined to seek bail and did not present a defense in court. She declined to comment afterward.

Prior to Berry’s court appearance, hundreds attended a funeral service for Cormier, a 2009 graduate of Everett High School who had been working at a party supply store in Saugus.

“She was just perfect,’’ said Danielle Connolly, who described herself as a lifelong friend of Cormier’s. “She would see the good in everyone.’’

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Another friend and mourner at the Smith Funeral Home in Chelsea - Heidi Callinan, 22, of Cambridge - described Cormier as a “fun-loving person’’ who “wouldn’t hurt a fly.’’

Both women declined to talk about Berry and his ties to Cormier. Prosecutors have said that the two had an “ongoing relationship’’ but did not elaborate.

During the funeral, Cormier’s cousin Katelin McDonald said Cormier often made family and friends laugh. She said Cormier had “an amazing sense of humor’’ and described her as a “thoughtful, generous person.’’

“She will live forever in our hearts,’’ McDonald said.

Later in court, Keeley said Cormier and Berry exchanged “numerous’’ cellphone calls the day Cormier was killed.

Keeley added that residents of the shelter where Berry had lived said they saw Cormier previously “in the company of the defendant.’’

“That relationship came to an end on Jan. 3, at approximately 6:30 p.m., when the defendant went to her home on Pearl Street with the intent to kill her, with the intent to murder her,’’ Keeley said.

She added that the two began exchanging calls early in the afternoon and that the last call was at 6:26 p.m. Those calls were tracked to Berry’s and Cormier’s cellphones, as well as to a cellphone tower in Malden, a quarter of a mile from Cormier’s home, Keeley said.

The night of her death, the prosecutor said, Cormier told her mother she was going to visit a friend and then left the family’s second-floor apartment on Pearl Street.

Shortly afterward, the prosecutor said, Cormier’s mother heard her daughter screaming and a loud thud, which the prosecutor said was the sound of Cormier’s body being slammed into the front door.

Cormier’s mother found her daughter in the foyer bleeding from several stab wounds. Cormier was pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital shortly after the attack.

Keeley said that after the killing, police searched Berry’s residence and found a jacket and gloves stained with human blood. She also said that surveillance videos show Berry wearing the same clothing in Cormier’s Everett neighborhood near the time of the killing.

Berry, who is scheduled to be back in court Feb. 9 for a probable cause hearing, is a formerly homeless man who was one of 23 men staying at a lodging house in Chelsea. He had been enrolled in the Cardinal Medeiros Transitional Program and had been living there since September 2010 as a participant in the program, the Globe reported this weekend.

Following the funeral service, Cormier was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.

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