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Man charged with killing South Boston woman

Victim found in a sober house; officials question regulation

Family and friends of Melissa Hardy grieved Thursday during the arraignment of her accused killer.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Family and friends of Melissa Hardy grieved Thursday during the arraignment of her accused killer.

Her battered body was found Wednesday in her former boyfriend’s room, located in a South Boston home for recovering substance abusers that is now padlocked from the outside.

On Thursday, as the victim’s relatives sobbed audibly in South Boston District Municipal Court, authorities charged Martin E. Jiminez in the brutal slaying of Melissa Hardy, 33. He was ordered held without bail in a case that raised questions about the oversight of often unregulated sober homes.

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Jiminez, 43, who remained largely out of sight behind a door during his arraignment, pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. He is due back in court Aug. 8.

Michael Doolin, Jiminez’s attorney, requested that his client undergo a mental health examination at Bridgewater State Hospital.

Police found Hardy’s body Wednesday evening in the East Fourth Street apartment building after her family requested a well-being check, officials said. Officers observed “obvious trauma to the body,” Assistant District Attorney Holly Broadbent said in court.

Hardy’s family declined to speak with reporters, but some relatives wept as Broadbent detailed what Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley called “a case of deadly domestic violence by a man who abused his partner before.”

State Police arrested Jiminez early Monday for operating while under the influence and several motor vehicle violations, said a Boston police report. At the time of his arrest, Jiminez was driving Hardy’s father’s car, the report said.

‘The only way we know about [sober homes] is the same word of mouth that lets other people know it is a sober house.’

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Jiminez was admitted to a hospital for treatment following his arrest, and there he “allegedly confessed to civilian witnesses that he had killed Hardy,” according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

Also Monday, authorities issued a separate warrant for Jiminez’s arrest because he did not appear in court for a hearing on his pending case for failing to register as a sex offender, according to the police report.

Jiminez was arrested again Wednesday as he attempted to leave the hospital, the district attorney’s office said.

Broadbent said Jiminez and Hardy had an “on again, off again” romantic relationship and that Hardy had left Jiminez to live with her family in Weymouth about two weeks ago after he allegedly punched her in the face. No police report was filed in that instance, Broadbent said.

The building on the 700 block of East Fourth Street where Hardy’s body was found is “an address known to be that of an unregulated sober home,” state Representative Martin J. Walsh said in a statement.

Boston police investigated the South Boston unregulated sober home where a woman was found dead Wednesday night.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Boston police investigated the South Boston unregulated sober home where a woman was found dead Wednesday night.

Neighbors said they have complained to police repeatedly about problems there. Police did not grant a Globe request Thursday for crime reports linked to the address, saying they needed more time to gather the information.

“Neighbors are concerned about possible drug use at the property,” said Joanne McDevitt, president of the City Point Neighborhood Association. “There are lots of transitional people in and out of the building.”

The building is owned by Nonbue Investments LLC, which is based in St. Louis, Mo., according to city and state records. Representatives from the company could not be reached for comment.

Sober homes are most often run by private owners who want to provide a sober environment and a support system for those in recovery, said Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

Because they are privately operated and not treatment facilities, they are not required to register with the city or state, Ferrer said.

“They tend to be unregulated and offer limited services, but do make the promise of sober living and a supportive environment for sober living,” she said. “. . . The only way we know about them is the same word of mouth that lets other people know it is a sober house.”

Ferrer said there are “more than a dozen” sober homes in Boston, but added that because they do not have to register themselves, there is no way to know the total number.

“There could be sober homes we don’t even know about because they are well run,” Ferrer said. “When there are problems, they are often big problems.”

The investigation of Hardy’s slaying and its connection to a supposed sober home prompted state officials to sound off on the topic.

“Unregulated sober homes are a problem in Boston,” Walsh said. “Some of them exploit families by offering recovery hope to people, while in reality, they offer no path to recovery. This leads to trouble.”

Walsh, who is running for mayor, and state Representative Nick Collins have cosponsored a bill to certify alcohol- and drug-free housing.

Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.

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