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Rhode Island crime news: February 2023

Providence Police investigate a shooting on Carolina Avenue, late Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

Feb. 6, 2023

Providence man convicted in 2021 murder of Smithfield man in drug transaction

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man accused of murdering a Smithfield man in Washington Park in April 2021 was convicted by a jury Thursday.

Johnny Xaykosy, 32, was found guilty of second-degree murder and discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, the attorney general’s office announced Monday. He had previously pleaded guilty to carrying a pistol without a license and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Xaykosy had been charged with the murder of 31-year-old Nikolas DiPanni, of Smithfield, who died after being shot around midnight on April 22, 2021.

DiPanni and his girlfriend had been looking to buy drugs and contacted Xaykosy, according to the attorney general’s office. They met up for a deal near Indiana and Allens avenues, but after the transaction, the couple got into an argument and DiPanni went to Xaykosy’s car. Xaykosy lowered his window and fired a shot into DiPanni’s chest, and drove away.

DiPanni was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Providence detectives investigated and arrested Xaykosy.

Xaykosy remains held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a sentencing hearing.

“There is no doubt that illegal firearms are possessed and used by drug dealers only for one purpose: to protect their product and trade — often using them to threaten and settle disputes,” Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a statement, thanking the Providence police. “This is among the reasons why, with our law enforcement partners, we have focused our efforts on gun wielding criminals, including drug traffickers.”

“The men and women of the Providence Police Department work hard to keep our communities safe, and bring justice to those who perpetrate violence,” said Acting Providence Police Chief Oscar Perez. “These senseless acts of gun violence have no place in our communities.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Scott Erickson and Special Assistant Attorney General Amanda Jacober, and investigated by Providence detectives Kevin Costa and Theodore Michael.

Jan. 31, 2023

Providence police: Landlord was attempting to evict man when she was killed

PROVIDENCE — A woman was fatally shot Monday as she attempted to evict a man from an apartment house in Silver Lake.

Jennie Jensen was accompanied by her brother and another person when they first knocked and then kicked in the door of the third-floor apartment, said Providence Police Major David Lapatin. They were carrying firearms, Lapatin said, but so was the man who Jensen wanted to evict: Rufus Watson, 26.

Watson had been staying in the apartment, which was rented by his cousin, Lapatin said. The cousin was out, but Watson was in and had a “ghost gun” AR-15 with two large-capacity magazines, Lapatin said.

Watson fired a shot, killing Jensen, but he described the encounter as self-defense, Lapatin said.

Watson, who had a criminal record in South Carolina, was charged with carrying a gun without a license, possession of a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence, two counts of having a large-capacity magazine, and having a ghost gun. He is being held at the Adult Correctional Institutions on $100,000 bail.

The homicide investigation will go before a grand jury, Lapatin said.

“We have to get to the absolute truth of what happened,” Lapatin said.

Jan. 31, 2023

North Providence detective and retired police lieutenant accused of embezzling from police union funds

PROVIDENCE — A North Providence detective and a former North Providence lieutenant were arraigned Tuesday on multiple felonies after an investigation into misappropriation of funds while they were on the executive board of the North Providence Fraternal Order of Police.

A statewide grand jury returned a secret indictment Monday charging former Lieutenant Dennis Stone with three counts of embezzlement over $100 and six counts of filing a false tax return. Detective Christopher Petteruti was charged with two counts of embezzlement over $100.

An investigation by the attorney general’s office, and the US Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General and Office of Labor Management Standards charged them with using their access to union bank accounts to embezzle funds for personal expenses.

Stone is accused of embezzling funds for personal use, including dining out, online study materials for promotions, and various retail purchases. He is also accused of filing false tax returns for 2015 through 2020 tax years, by failing to disclose and pay taxes on income received as a part-time waiter at Twin Oaks restaurant in Cranston.

As treasurer, Petteruti is accused of embezzling union funds by withdrawing the money from ATMS and also spending the money to gamble at Foxwoods.

They were arraigned in Providence County Superior Court and are scheduled for a pretrial conference on April 12.

Jan. 24, 2023

Woonsocket man sentenced to life in prison in murder of city woman

A Woonsocket man was sentenced to life in prison Monday for striking and killing a woman with his car following an argument in August 2020, authorities said.

James Grilli, 39, was involved in an intermittent dating relationship with Erika Belcourt, 43. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office said that during an argument on Aug. 22, 2020, at her apartment on Diamond Hill Road, Belcourt asked Grilli to leave and remove his belongings from the home. After the argument escalated, Grilli broke down the front door of the apartment, and Belcourt called city police. She was standing in front of his black Ford Escape on the phone with police when he revved his engine several times and accelerated toward her, running her over, Neronha’s office said. Grilli left the scene, according to prosecutors. Belcourt was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Grilli pleaded no contest on Monday before Superior Court Justice Richard Raspallo to one count of second-degree murder and one count of leaving the scene of an accident, death resulting, Neronha’s office said.

“This extraordinary act of domestic violence took the life of a mother of two, who had much to live for,” Neronha said in a news release. “The defendant’s outrageous conduct has now landed him precisely where he belongs: in state prison, for decades to come.”