Richard Nunez faced the man who had just been convicted of raping and killing his mother two years ago. But he had nothing to say to him before the court. Instead the boy addressed his mother.
“Mom, I just want you to know that I love you,” he said. “And you’re an angel.”
Nearby, prosecutors wept, and court officers struggled to hold back tears. The judge had a question: How old are you?
Richard, who was 13, could barely answer. He just cried.
“Your mother would be very proud of you,” Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Locke told him gently. “You’re very brave.”
The boy was one of five family members of Rosanna Camilo De Nunez who delivered searing statements before the court Friday moments after 29-year-old Eldrick Broom was convicted of murdering the 34-year-old mother of three in her Mattapan apartment.
Broom, dressed in a gray suit, looked on blankly as Camilo’s son, daughter, brother, sister, and finally her husband tried to convey the loss of a woman who had left the Dominican Republic for Boston so that her youngest son, Thiago, could receive medical treatment for a rare genetic disorder that left him physically and mentally disabled.
Just before Locke sentenced Broom, a hospital janitor who was once Camilo’s neighbor, to life in prison, he told the packed courtroom that in his 33-year career he had never heard such powerful statements.
During the hearing, Broom’s lawyer, Norman Zalkind, said the case was a “tragedy” for everyone involved.
“It’s not a tragedy,” he said. “It’s a senseless, selfish crime, outrageous in its details.”
On Nov. 21, 2011, Camilo was in her apartment with her 18-month old son, Thiago, waiting for the boy’s occupational therapist, who had scheduled a home visit. Instead, prosecutors said, Broom showed up, made his way into the apartment and raped her. He then strangled her so brutally that he crushed her larynx.
When the therapist arrived at about 1:30, there was no answer at the door.
Camilo’s daughter, Navila Nunez, then 16, came home from school later that day to find her mother’s body on the bedroom floor, a computer cord and navy blue sock wrapped tightly around her neck. Thiago was sitting in his crib.
“Nobody can feel what I feel,” Navila Nunez said during the sentencing hearing, “the impotence, the suffering.”
Camilo left her large family in the Dominican Republic and a secure government job to live in a strange city where she could barely speak the language. She had few friends in Boston, but great hope that doctors here could help Thiago, on whom she doted, her family said. Navila Nunez eventually joined her mother in Boston to help her.
“No one can imagine the love I saw in her eyes,” Navila Nunez said. “She loved him to the point of dying for him.”
Broom’s DNA was found on Camilo’s body and under her fingernails. The jury dismissed Broom’s defense that he had been having a consensual, sexual relationship with Camilo and that they had been together the night before she was murdered.
During the trial, Broom took the stand in his own defense and described a sexual relationship seemingly devoid of any romantic context. He told jurors they had met in the laundry room of the apartment building and became friendly.
“One thing led to another,” Broom said during his testimony. The two rarely had conversations, Broom said. Camilo would let him into her apartment, sometimes without saying a word.
The night before the murder, Broom said, Camilo let him in again and they had sex while her children were in their bedrooms. Broom said he then left for his job at Boston Medical Center, where he worked the night shift.
Navila Nunez testified that she was home that night and never heard anyone come into the apartment. When she went to sleep at 10:30 that night, she saw her mother on the couch wearing yellow pajamas and looking at her computer as the television blared.
During the trial, Camilo’s husband, Richard Nunez, a 48-year-old physical education teacher, sat through Broom’s testimony and remained calm as he listened to the defendant.
“I knew it was all lies,” Richard Nunez said in an interview after Broom was convicted. “We’ve lost a great, great woman, a wonderful mother, and an extraordinary human being.”
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Richard Nunez looked directly at Broom and asked how he could show no remorse for his actions. Broom remained quiet.
“Looking at you is very pathetic,” Richard Nunez said. “You are the lowest of the low. You are out of this world. You don’t belong here. You’re a beast.”
All first-degree murder convictions are automatically appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court. Zalkind said his client, the father of two young children, insists he did not kill Camilo. Zalkind said there are “strong issues” to bring up during the appeals process, but he declined to be more specific.
After the jury rendered its verdict, Camilo’s husband hugged Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and the detectives in the case. Camilo’s older sister, Eva Camilo, insisted that the prosecution team pose for photographs with the family.
“We can move on now,” Richard Nunez said.
Navila Nunez, in her statement to the court Friday, said she treasured one of her last conversations with her mother on the day before she died.
Camilo turned to her daughter as they stood in a grocery store and said: “‘I’m so proud of you. I know you’re going to get far. Everything you set your mind to you’ll achieve.”
Wiping away tears, Navila Nunez smiled slightly at the memory. “I’ll never forget that,” she said.