When Jared Remy casually raised a cuffed hand to his face while pleading guilty to murder earlier this week, he flashed what appeared to be a neo-Nazi jailhouse tattoo on his right hand.
Remy’s forearms are covered with elaborately detailed, richly colored tattoos predating his time behind bars, including a grim reaper and a busty nude in fishnet stockings. But as photos of Remy circulated online, it was a small, crudely etched symbol near his thumb and forefinger that stood out to those familiar with prison ink: “88.”
“That’s definitely a neo-Nazi tattoo,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center , which teaches law enforcement to recognize hate groups and symbols, explaining that 88 stands for “HH” — H being the eighth letter in the alphabet — or “Heil Hitler.”
Remy’s tattoo is drawn in the runic style, evoking letters used by Germanic people before the Middle Ages, another trope popular with white supremacists, said Potok. The tattoos are common among white inmates nationwide, as much a sign of affiliation for protection and solidarity as of bigotry, he said.
That adds a new layer to Remy’s unusual statement in court Tuesday, which he began by thanking three men, apparently fellow inmates at the Cambridge jail where he was held.
“I would like to thank Josh Sullivan, Shane Tresilian, Eddie Stone, and all the guys from Somerville for taking me in. I wish you guys all the best of luck,” Remy said, before switching to the subject of the murder of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, last summer. “Blame me for this, not my family.”
Remy’s statement came shortly after he pleaded guilty to first degree murder, paving the way for Judge Kathe Tuttman to sentence him to the mandatory term of life without parole.
Defense lawyer Edward P. Ryan Jr. said after the hearing that Remy wrote the statement himself and that he did not recognize the names of the men, but suspected they were fellow Cambridge jail detainees. (The handwritten page Remy submitted to the court, littered with misspellings, identified the men as “Josh Sullivin Shane Tilsilion Eddi Stone and all the guys from Summervil.”)
Public records show men with similar names overlapping with Remy in jail. One was Shane D. Tresilian, a 40-year-old who has been in and out of custody for two decades for offenses including throwing a bicycle through a Somerville library window.
In 2001, a Somerville judge who ordered Tresilian to be held without bail while awaiting trial for a bloody barfight described him as “a dedicated street brawler ignited by substances who poses a clear and present danger to man, beast, or inanimate objects in his path while he is in thrall.”
Though Remy, the son of celebrated Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, had a long history of arrests for allegedly abusing or assaulting women, he served only one stint in jail — 81 days while awaiting trial in the winter of 2005-06 — prior to murdering Martel.
“He was the new kid on the cell block,” said Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin, speculating that Remy may have grouped himself with an organization or gang along racial lines for solidarity and protection.
Levin said Remy’s tattoo and his unusual acknowledgment of other inmates in his courtroom address may also offer new light on his alleged attack of another inmate, an African-American man, with scalding water, a bar of soap, and a chair on April 3. “I did what I had to do. I got a child molester,” Remy said after the incident, according to court records. His victim, Jemery Hodges, has pleaded guilty in Mississippi to transporting a minor to engage in commercial sex acts, and is awaiting trial locally on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.
Of the three men with names similar to the ones Remy listed, only Tresilian remains in the Cambridge jail, awaiting trial for allegedly stealing a bag containing a laptop and camera from a woman exiting the Central Square MBTA station last spring, just days before he punched and spit at officers who tried to restrain him after a fight in Cambridgeport, according to court records.
Joshua Sullivan, 20, of Somerville, was held there until January, when he was sent to MCI-Cedar Junction — the state prison in Walpole, where Remy arrived Tuesday — after pleading guilty to armed assault with intent to murder and other charges, for his role in an attempted stickup of a drug dealer that left a Roxbury man bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Edward A. Stone, a homeless 25-year-old, previously served time in federal prison for a failed Everett bank robbery. He overlapped with Remy in jail while awaiting trial for driving under the influence of drugs in Cambridge and using counterfeit bills in Everett. He was released earlier this month on probation after pleading guilty to those crimes.
Kristina Hill — Martel’s close friend and next-door neighbor — and two other former neighbors from the Waltham apartment complex where Remy and Martel lived said that Remy’s hand tattoo appeared to be new.
“It doesn’t shock me,” Hill said, noting that Remy boasted to her on the first day they met that he wanted a swastika tattoo.
Jailhouse tattoos can be rendered with paper clips or other bits of metal or sharp plastic and colored with ink from pens. Kevin Maccioli, a Middlesex sheriff’s office spokesman, said the jail has a policy against inmate tattooing. The jail also catalogues each inmate’s tattoos and scars at intake, but he said state law and department policy prevent him from saying whether Remy’s tattoo is new or was the subject of any discipline.
Levin said Remy’s statement — and his tattoo — were “certainly not designed to endear himself to the judge.” But given the mandatory sentence, Remy may have been more interested in endearing himself to fellow inmates, he said.
“When you get very little respect, as prisoners do from the outside world, it becomes extremely important to be respected by fellow inmates,” he said, in “a place where he’s going to spend the rest of his life.”