DEDHAM - Two men charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 death of a Guatemalan man - who prosecutors say was shot, dismembered, and his body burned in the industrial oven of a factory - walked free Friday after the Norfolk district attorney’s office dropped all charges against them.
Assistant Norfolk District Attorney Thomas L. Finigan said at a status conference in Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham on Friday that the murder charges against Paul Moccia, 51, and Daniel P. Bradley, 50, were dropped as a result of the death of a key witness in January.
Moccia and Bradley were accused of shooting Angel Antonio Ramirez, 37, of Framingham in the back so that Moccia would not have to pay him a $70,000 drug debt.
Authorities said Moccia and Bradley then moved Ramirez’s body to R.J. Bradley Co. in Walpole, a concrete business co-owned by Bradley. Bradley then dismembered Ramirez’s body and incinerated the remains at a Norwood plastics manufacturer, prosecutors alleged.
The men were charged in 2009. Ramirez’s body has not been found.
Prosecutors were relying on testimony from Paul Moccia’s brother, Robert Moccia, to connect the men to the murder.
However, Robert Moccia died of natural causes in New Hampshire Jan. 17, according to a report provided by District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey’s office.
As a result of the death, Morrissey said in a statement, it has become “impossible to sustain the Commonwealth’s burden at this time.’’
Morrissey added that though the charges were dropped, neither of the men are protected from prosecution in the future.
“There is a strong possibility that there are members of the public with information relative to this homicide who have not shared that information with law enforcement,’’ he said. “We urge anyone with knowledge of these events or those involved to come forward.’’
Authorities have said that in addition to killing Ramirez, the two men agreed to kill Jesse Sheridan, with whom Bradley was feuding over custody rights.
Shannon Murphy, who was Bradley’s girlfriend at the time, had a child with Sheridan. Sheridan was not attacked.
Sheridan said that he fears for anyone who gets in the way of Paul Moccia or Bradley.
“I can’t believe that they dropped the ball on this,’’ Sheridan said by phone Friday. “It’s really sad, and it doesn’t look good.’’
Murphy implicated her estranged father, John Murphy, in an alleged coverup of the slaying. He has been charged as an accessory in the case.
John Murphy’s lawyer has said that his daughter is not credible and that she has struggled with substance abuse.
Paul Moccia and Bradley, who met while students at Catholic Memorial High School, shuffled into the courtroom Friday afternoon, their legs hobbled by shackles, their arms restrained by handcuffs.
After court was dismissed and the two men walked out, free of their shackles, a woman in the courtroom clapped, while others simply smiled.
Moccia, a former Massachusetts Turnpike toll collector, was mobbed outside the courtroom by joyous relatives, some of them crying. Bradley was also released and quickly left the courthouse.
Moccia’s lawyer, Steven Boozang, said outside the courtroom that the district attorney had a case built on the word of unreliable witnesses.
Boozang added that Robert Moccia had psychological problems, and that “we had no problem if he was in the trial.’’
“This was quite a cast of characters,’’ Boozang said of the prosecution’s case. “In the end, [prosecutors] were stuck with people that just couldn’t tell the truth if their lives depended on it.’’
The charges were filed by Morrissey’s predecessor, US Representative William R. Keating.
Moccia did not comment, except to say that he was eager to get home to his family. He said the first thing he was going to do was “hug my sons.’’