The man charged with the kidnapping and murder of a young South Boston woman last summer was indicted Friday in that killing, as well as attacks on three other women, including a 2012 assault that police have acknowledged might have led to an earlier arrest if it had been investigated more thoroughly.
Nearly 10 months before Edwin J. Alemany allegedly killed Amy Lord, a 24-year-old digital marketer who was kidnapped on her way to a gym, Alemany assaulted a Mission Hill woman and left behind his wallet and a baseball hat, police said. The hat had traces of DNA that was “strongly consistent” with Alemany’s DNA, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said Friday.
But prosecutors said the hat was not tested for DNA until after Lord was killed, again raising questions over whether Alemany could have been off the streets if police had connected him sooner to the Mission Hill assault.
Friday’s indictments were hailed by law enforcement officials as the fruit of an intense and successful investigation.
“We are one step closer to bringing Edwin Alemany to justice,” said William Evans, Boston’s acting police commissioner.
Alemany, a 28-year-old convicted thief who has pleaded not guilty, has a long history of mental illness, says his lawyer, Jeffrey Denner. After his arrest in July, Alemany clawed at his neck while in custody in an apparent suicide attempt and was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital, where he is undergoing a mental health evaluation.
Once police identified Alemany as a suspect in the abduction and killing of Lord and the attacks on two other women on July 23, investigators discovered that they may have missed a chance to arrest him in September 2012, when he allegedly attacked a 20-year-old as she walked into her Mission Hill apartment.
In that attack, Alemany allegedly choked the woman from behind. As she struggled, his wallet, containing his ID, fell out of his pocket. A hat and a plastic bottle were also found at the scene, but police never questioned Alemany, who was not arrested.
After Lord’s killing, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis demoted the detective in the case, Jerome Hall-Brewster, and publicly slammed him for failing to follow up on the case. Hall-Brewster’s supervisors received lesser punishments, written and oral reprimands.
Davis said Hall-Brewster ignored repeated e-mails from the crime lab asking about the evidence recovered at the scene. Davis said there was enough probable cause to make an arrest at the time, based on the discovery of the wallet with Alemany’s ID.
Hall-Brewster’s lawyer, Raffi Yessayan, said the officer acknowledged that he did not return three e-mails from the lab, which did not seem urgent.
But, when the crime lab sent a fourth e-mail saying that the evidence could not be tested until the detective confirmed that he believed they were connected to the suspect, he quickly responded with, “Yes, test all three of them,” Yessayan said.
Only the bottle, which came back negative for a DNA match to anyone with a criminal record, was tested by the lab in June.
“Was this an issue of somebody dropping the ball, or was this an issue of [the crime lab] prioritizing with the resources they had?” Yessayan said. “The department should answer those questions.”
Cheryl Fiandaca, spokeswoman for the Police Department, said no one at the crime lab has been disciplined in the case. Fiandaca declined to comment on Yessayan’s assertions.
“The investigation was thorough and complete,” she said.
Hall-Brewster has appealed his demotion to the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals.
During the press conference announcing the indictments against Alemany, Evans said proper discipline was meted out to those involved in the Mission Hill case. He said that new management training has been “put into effect so nothing like this happens again.”
Evans, who was appointed acting commissioner Nov. 1, described Lord’s killing as “a terrible, terrible case for us.”
“Being a South Boston resident, I realize the fear that went into the community over that 24-hour period,” he said. “And, I just want to reassure the community that from day one we worked as hard as we could on this case.”
All four of the victims were between 20 and 24 years old and were attacked while walking alone late at night or in the early morning. About one hour before allegedly kidnapping Lord, Alemany attacked a 22-year-old woman walking down Old Colony Avenue in South Boston, police said. He threatened to kill her, but then abruptly walked away.
Lord was attacked as she left her Dorchester Street apartment before 6 a.m., was dragged back into the vestibule and viciously beaten, and was then driven to five ATMs to withdraw cash. She was found stabbed to death at Stony Brook Reservation in Hyde Park.
Eighteen hours after he allegedly killed Lord, Alemany stabbed another woman, a 21-year-old walking home on Gates Street, police said. Her screams drew the attention of neighbors, forcing Alemany to flee. The woman survived.
“The attacks were all blitz-like physical assaults where the victims were immediately overwhelmed with violence,” said Conley. “The homicide of Amy Lord was savage and brutal. The level of violence visited on her shocked the entire city of Boston, including hardened police and prosecutors with decades of experience.’’
He said that Alemany acted with “an unmistakable clarity of mind in his actions.”
Denner said that he has not decided whether he will mount an insanity defense, but he disputed Conley’s description of Alemany’s state of mind.
“The observations I have made of Mr. Alemany don’t lead me to that same conclusion,” Denner said. “I think this has been an incredibly sick young man for a long period of time.”