BROCKTON — Jean Michel Beaulieu and Florence Beaulieu exchanged vows at their wedding in 1999, and a prosecutor said Wednesday that the husband recently made another vow: He promised to kill his wife, rather than sign divorce papers.
Jean Michel Beaulieu fulfilled that promise last month, prosecutors said, beating his estranged wife to death in her home here.
“It’s a brutal domestic violence murder,” District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said after Beaulieu’s arraignment Wednesday in Brockton District Court. “He murdered a woman he had children with. What more can you say than that?”
Not-guilty pleas were entered on Beaulieu’s behalf to a murder charge and three charges of violating a restraining order. Beaulieu was ordered held without bail.
Florence Beaulieu, a mother of four, told friends and family she was planning to leave her husband, who she said in court documents had abused her for years. She had filed for divorce, was looking for a new apartment, and had begun dating.
“She thought the hardest part was over,” said Manouchka Casimir, 33, who described herself as Florence’s best friend. “She was beaten, abused for 15 years; she had enough. It was time to get out, for her sake and for her children’s sake.”
On Friday, May 16, Florence Beaulieu’s two teenage daughters came home from school to find their mother’s lifeless body in a pool of blood in the foyer of their Forest Avenue home. Beaulieu’s 16-year-old daughter told police that Jean Michel Beaulieu, who is her stepfather, had pledged never to sign divorce papers, saying, “He would kill Florence before they would ever be apart,” according to court documents.
The couple’s son also told police he had heard his father threaten to murder his mother “three or four times.”
In the weeks before her death, according to court documents, Florence told police and a neighbor she had come home on multiple occasions to find her house had been broken into and white powder, a crucifix, and a “voodoo candle” had been left.
Florence told her neighbor she believed her husband was responsible, according to court documents.
Still, two days before she was killed, she asked a court to revoke the restraining order she had taken out against him, telling a judge she had filed for divorce but wanted her husband to be able to see his children, according to documents.
After Florence Beaulieu’s death, Jean Michel made a series of telephone calls to his sister, who demanded to know if he had hurt his wife, Jennifer L. Sprague, the prosecutor, said in court.
“Are you guilty?’’ the sister reportedly asked Beaulieu.
“Yes, I did it,’’ he allegedly replied in one conversation on May 17, the day after the killing. “Yes, I did it.’’
While Florence’s death was under investigation, Jean Michel Beaulieu went to Canada and was taken into custody at the Canada-Vermont border as he tried to reenter the United States.
Beaulieu first told police that a woman he did not know followed his car May 16 and stopped him around noon to tell him his wife was with her boyfriend and his wife had stolen her cocaine. Beaulieu told police this woman told him someone had shot his wife’s car and his wife was in an accident and was hurt and bleeding.
He then told police he did see his wife at her home Friday morning, but when he arrived, another man he identified as his wife’s boyfriend — but who the prosecutor called a “mysterious man” — was in the house. Beaulieu said he wrestled with this man, and the man threw or swung a weapon at him, but the weapon hit Florence instead.
Jean Michel Beaulieu told police that as he helped Florence, he wept, hugged and kissed her, and told her he loved her.
Then Beaulieu said he fled, taking his wife’s cellphone, which he said had a picture of the mystery man on it.
But Sprague said the man Florence was dating was in Philadelphia the day Florence was murdered.
Florence’s friends and a cousin attended the arraignment, sitting quietly in the back of the courtroom.
Her children are in Florida with their grandparents, they said.
Casimir described her best friend as a strong woman who was cheerful and there for her friends even though she had her own struggles.
“She always had a smile on her face,” Casimir said. “Even while her life was bad, she always tried to help me out. She always tried to help me see the good.”Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@
globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.