In 2010, three young friends with no criminal past were arrested in the fatal stabbing of a Domino’s pizza delivery man, a killing that stunned the city because of its random brutality.
Now one of the defendants, a 21-year-old woman, may plead guilty for her alleged role in the crime.
Yamiley Mathurin was a 17-year-old high school junior when she allegedly lured the delivery man, Richel Nova, a 58-year-old father of three, to an upstairs room in a Hyde Park apartment. There, prosecutors say, he was robbed and attacked by Mathurin’s boyfriend, Alexander Gallet, who was 18, and their friend, Michel St. Jean, then 20. They allegedly stabbed Nova 16 times and stole more than $100 in cash, as well as the pizza, chicken wings, and liter of Sprite they had ordered.
All three of them are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery, but Mathurin has been described by prosecutors as “the face of the crime.”
“Its success depended on her performance and interaction with people,” Suffolk prosecutor Jennifer Hickman said when the three were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2010. “It was the role of Yamiley Mathurin to get Richel Nova up to the second floor.”
Jury selection in the case is expected to start Friday.
A hearing on Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court was charged with emotion in advance of what is expected to be a wrenching trial.
Nova’s family, including his 24-year-old twin daughters, attended the hearing. When the defendants first walked in, one of the twins gasped, turned away to avoid seeing them, and sobbed as her sister hugged her tightly.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Linda E. Giles warned that during the trial loved ones of the victim and the defendants will have to leave the courtroom if they cannot control their emotions before the jury.
“I don’t want anyone’s arms around each other. I don’t want any overt comfort,” she said. “I have to make sure that the defendants get a fair trial.”
Giles said she and court officers would closely monitor the courtroom.
“I don’t like doing it,” she said. “We’re all human with all our human emotions. Nevertheless I have to police this.”
At the hearing, the three defendants barely looked at each other as they sat at the same defense table. At the start of the hearing, Giles said she understood that one of the defendants was planning to enter a guilty plea.
She did not identify which defendant but for the rest of the morning, Giles only addressed Hickman, the prosecutor, and the lawyers for the male defendants on matters of the upcoming trial.
A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Mathurin’s lawyer, Steven Sack, declined to comment on the case.
Several people with knowledge of the case identified Mathurin as the defendant likely to plead guilty.
Nova was a native of the Dominican Republic who lived an austere life, buying few furnishings and clothes so he could save for his daughters and their older brother.
He knew the dangers of his job and took precautions, like keeping the car engine running and the door open in case he needed to make a quick escape. Prosecutors have said Mathurin’s polite, sweet demeanor on the phone and at the scene made her seem trustworthy.
At 11 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2010, prosecutors said, Mathurin called Domino’s to order food and asked the restaurant manager if the driver would be able to break a large bill. She then told the manager to tell the driver to bring the food to the back of the house, according to court documents.
A neighbor saw Nova follow Mathurin to the back stairs of the Hyde Park Avenue apartment. Almost immediately, the neighbor heard loud noises from the apartment and someone call out in Spanish, according to the documents. The neighbor rushed outside and saw three people leave the house and take off in Nova’s 1995 green Subaru.
The neighbor and a friend then went to the apartment, where they found Nova lying on the floor bleeding from his neck. When ambulance workers arrived, they saw the pockets of his pants were inside out. That night the three friends went to the home of Mathurin’s best friend, Aline Valery, who smelled bleach on them, the documents say.
When Valery noticed the blood on Gallet’s shirt, Mathurin quickly explained that he got into a fight with a man who had groped her, according to the documents. Their story collapsed soon after police found Nova’s car in the parking lot of a church on River Street. There were three slices of pizza left in a box discarded inside the Subaru. The steering wheel reeked of bleach.
Valery would later tell police that in the early afternoon on Sept. 1, she heard the three of them talking about wanting to rob someone.
Nova’s family has filed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza, alleging wrongful death.