Boston police disclosed Friday that one of their detectives failed to follow up on the 2012 assault of a woman who was choked into unconsciousness and then awakened to find she was holding the wallet of her suspected assailant — the man now under scrutiny in this week’s fatal stabbing of a young South Boston woman.
The suspected assailant in the 2012 choking, Edwin Alemany, is charged with attacking two women in the past week, and is considered a “person of interest’’ in the killing of Amy Lord, the 24-year-old who was abducted as she left her Dorchester Street apartment, forced to withdraw money from five ATMs, then stabbed to death at Stony Brook Reservation in Hyde Park.
The announcement by police that one of their detectives did not aggressively pursue Alemany raised the troubling prospect that a highly dangerous man with a lengthy criminal record was allowed to remain on the streets.
“I’m very disappointed in what the detective did in this case,” said Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis during a late afternoon press conference. “I would hope that a more thorough and aggressive stance . . . is something that we would pursue in a case like this.”
The detective is now under investigation by the police internal affairs division.
The victim in that 2012 case, a young architectural student who asked that her name not be published, said she did not follow through with police after she was attacked on a Roxbury street in September of last year. She said in an interview Friday that she had wanted to put the ordeal behind her.
“Now that I look back on it, it’s kind of stupid. I should have called,” she said, growing emotional. “If they would have done something . . . I just feel bad for that girl. I didn’t know those two would be connected.”
Alemany was supposed to be arraigned Thursday on charges of assault with intent to murder, kidnapping, and assault and battery, but a judge ordered him sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for a 20-day evaluation. Alemany was suicidal and incoherent, according to his lawyer and a psychiatrist who spoke to him.
At Alemany’s family home in Mattapan Friday afternoon, relatives appeared distressed. A young woman ran out of the front door, crying as she spoke.
“Why?” she wailed.
A young man who identified himself as Alemany’s brother said the family was too devastated to comment.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Our family is going crazy here. My brother didn’t do that.”
Police took a new look at the 2012 attack after Alemany was arrested in connection with two other assaults this week. Alemany allegedly attacked two women in South Boston during a 19-hour period that began Tuesday at 4:20 a.m., when police said he assaulted a 22-year-old who was walking along Old Colony Avenue to her job at Dunkin’ Donuts.
The woman said her assailant punched her in the jaw, then dragged her by her feet to an open parking lot. Terrified, she told him to take everything she had.
“I’m not robbing you,” he told her, according to a police report. “I’m going to kill you.”
Then, the man asked her if she spoke Spanish. She said yes. He looked at her carefully, still holding her by the neck with his hands, then said in Spanish: “You're not the one I’m looking for. I’m sorry.”
He told her his name was Miguel, picked up her things that had fallen to the ground, and handed them to her, according to the account.
He began walking toward Dorchester Street, but not before warning the woman to not call police because he knew where she worked. Scared, the victim waited until 5 a.m. to make the call.
At 6 a.m., records show Lord used her ATM card for the first time. Her body was found by a cyclist in Hyde Park around 4 p.m.
Then, shortly after midnight on Wednesday, a 21-year-old woman was walking to her apartment on Gates Street in South Boston when she noticed a man following her.
She repeatedly looked over her shoulder and tried to rush into her apartment, according to the police report, when the man grabbed her and began stabbing her.
A neighbor, a man in his 20s, heard her cry out.
“The worst scream I’ve ever heard in my life,” the neighbor said Friday. The neighbor, who did not want his name published, said he could see the assailant on top of the woman from his third floor window, yelled at the man to stop, then called 911.
Another neighbor, a man in his 40s, rushed over, and also yelled at the attacker, who suddenly stopped, looked coolly at the man in the window and walked away.
“What are you doing?” the older neighbor asked the man, according to a police report.
“Junkie tried to rob me,” the man replied, then calmly walked away.
“That was the oddest and scariest thing about all of this,” the younger neighbor recounted. “The guy didn’t even run from the scene, when he knew two witnesses were looking at him.”
The victim scrambled to her feet, rushed into the building and locked the door behind her. She was stabbed four times in the torso and two more times, in her neck and face.
Police arrested Alemany later that morning, after he appeared at Tufts New England Medical Center with a wound to his hand, his clothes stained with blood. He showed up at the same time as his alleged victim, who survived the attack, according to the report.
Davis said after Alemany was taken into custody Wednesday morning, investigators began searching for records of similar assaults. They came upon the Sept. 28, 2012, attack and became concerned, Davis said.
At 2:28 a.m. that day, the woman, then 20, was walking home along Parker Hill Avenue in Roxbury, returning from an architecture studio class that had lasted for hours.
She was only about 10 feet from her building, when, she said, she was attacked from behind and choked. As she was falling to the ground, she grabbed something, but then passed out.
She awoke to see police officers in front of her. Her purse and her wallet were missing. But she was holding a strange wallet with an identification card that had Alemany’s name and an address in South Boston. The woman was able to describe her attacker, calling him “medium-skinned . . . approximately 6 feet, and wearing a dark hoody and dark pants.”
On Friday she recalled her terror as the man grabbed her, then slammed her against the sidewalk. Suddenly, his hands were around her mouth.
“I didn’t have time to scream, shout,” she said. Then he began choking her.
Police visited her about a week later to get a statement, but she never heard from them again.
“I just figured it must have been dismissed,” she said.
Davis did not say what steps the detective took to investigate, but the detective had decided there was not enough probable cause to pursue an arrest.
It was the wrong decision, Davis said.
“It’s clear that Mr. Alemany is a strong suspect in the incident,” Davis said.
“As you can imagine, it’s incredibly frustrating that we are here today talking about a man that has 18 juvenile arraignments, and 34 adult arraignments and is still not incarcerated,” said Davis.
The 2012 case has been assigned to a new investigator and the detective, who was not identified, is being investigated by the department’s internal affairs division. Davis said internal affairs will also examine whether the detective’s supervisors followed up appropriately.
An official for the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society declined to comment.