PROVIDENCE — A Providence man is accused of killing his girlfriend and then storing her body in his refrigerator for several days.
Police Major David Lapatin said investigators discovered the body of 40-year-old Sherbert Maddox on Tuesday morning, after a tip that a woman was dead in an apartment at 43 Parkis Ave.
Maddox had been shot, and her body was wrapped in plastic and blankets and placed inside the otherwise ordinary kitchen refrigerator, Lapatin said.
Maddox’s boyfriend, Nathan Cooper, 53, is charged with murder and other felony charges, Lapatin said. Police seized a handgun believed to be the murder weapon, as well as a rifle, he said.
While there was no record of police calls about abuse between the couple during their short relationship, Lapatin said that family and friends had told investigators that Cooper was violent.
Cooper’s criminal record in Rhode Island goes back to 1989, with convictions in drug cases and domestic violence. He was out on bail in three felony drug cases when he was arrested Tuesday.
As a convicted felon with domestic violence convictions, Cooper wasn’t legally allowed to possess firearms. It wasn’t immediately known how he came to possess the guns, one of which had been reported stolen.
Cooper cried as he faced a judge during his arraignment at District Court Wednesday, causing them to momentarily stop the proceedings. He was charged with murder, possession of a stolen firearm, and possession of a firearm without a license. Judge Christopher Smith ordered held Cooper without bail.
Maddox’s daughter, Shynique Maddox, 19, said her mother was “an extremely good person.”
Her mother, Sherbert Perez, said her daughter’s nickname was Strawberry, because she was craving strawberries and whipped cream while pregnant with her. Her first name was Sherbert, like her mother and her grandmother, because it was what their mothers were craving while they were pregnant, she said.
The family sat together in the courtroom and watched the man accused of murdering someone they loved and disposing of her body so callously. The victim’s sister screamed and cursed at Cooper as he entered the courtroom.
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center said in a joint statement that Maddox’s slaying was heartbreaking and that more should be done to keep firearms out of the hands of abusers.
“Maddox’s life was stolen from her by a person who had a history of domestic abuse – the single biggest predictor of lethality risk of domestic violence homicide. Access to guns is another domestic violence homicide risk factor, and the presence of a gun can be the determining factor in whether or not a perpetrator’s attack becomes deadly,” the advocates said.
“All systems including the courts, law enforcement and gun dealers must do more to ensure firearms stay out of the hands of dangerous individuals. This should include court officials monitoring case files, conducting compliance review hearings and enforcing court orders with appropriate remedies,” the advocates added. “R.I. courts should utilize specialized check lists that prompt judges to ask about the presence, location and surrender-status of firearms in all domestic violence cases to prevent these gun-related homicides.”