It came in as an ordinary call to pick up a fare at the Hancock Courts housing development in Lawrence. It turned out to be anything but ordinary: Paul Morel, a 38-year-old cabdriver, had been lured into a trap.
When he arrived around 11 p.m. Feb. 2, 1985, Morel was confronted by 16-year-old Jose Tevenal Jr., who pointed a gun and demanded money, prosecutors said. Morel handed over “a stack of ones” totaling $43, but Tevenal was not satisfied, firing at the cabdriver six times even as he screamed in pain, according to a letter from Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
An autopsy found four bullets had gone through Morel’s lungs and three had struck his aorta, killing him.
Thirty years later, Tevenal, now 47, plans to ask the Massachusetts Parole Board on Thursday to consider his release. Morel’s family is opposed.
“It’s like it was yesterday. I still sit here and can’t believe that it actually happened,” said Morel’s sister, Karen Suzor. “It was a heinous crime.”
In the letter outlining his opposition to the parole request and dated Wednesday, Blodgett said Tevenal plotted and bragged about the killing, later returning to the crime scene, where police saw him carrying a small dog and “laughing and speaking in a loud voice to whoever would listen.”
Three weeks after the killing, Tevenal turned 17.
He was convicted of first-degree murder on Feb. 10, 1986, and sentenced to life without parole but he eligible to seek release because of a 2012 US Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.
The state Supreme Judicial Court took that ruling further in 2013 with a decision that granted a chance at freedom for 65 inmates. So far, 15 inmates affected by the decision have gone before the board, said Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Seven were granted parole and three were denied, Harris said. Decisions in the other cases are pending.
Blodgett’s letter describes Morel’s killing as “cruel and callous,” saying Tevenal ignored the driver’s pleas for mercy, divided the stolen money among his codefendants, and then maintained he was not the shooter until 2013.
“The defendant’s dubious acceptance of responsibility only now, his troubling lack of programming to address the problems that he claims drove his conduct, and his woefully unsuitable parole plans, show that the most basic goals of sentencing have not been met, and his release is not compatible with public safety,” Blodgett wrote.
Tevenal’s lawyer, Elizabeth Doherty, said she couldn’t comment without his permission.
Harris said Doherty submitted more than 500 pages on Tevenal’s behalf, but the spokesman refused to release any of the documents, saying the board needs to review the file and that the information requires “heavy redaction or is not releasable.”
Blodgett’s letter provides some details about Tevenal’s life during his 30 years in prison.
He participated in vocational training and substance abuse programs, though Blodgett described the drug treatment as insufficient. If released, Tevenal said he has an offer to work for a friend who has a criminal record, Blodgett wrote.
Two other people were convicted in Morel’s slaying. Andre Garcia, who entered the cab and seized the ignition keys, and Emilio “June Bug” Gonzalez, who acted as a lookout, pleaded guilty to armed robbery and manslaughter, Blodgett wrote. They were sentenced to serve 12 to 20 years concurrently. Gonzalez, who was 19 at the time of the slaying, died in prison in 1992, Blodgett wrote. Garcia served two-thirds of his sentence before being paroled in 1993.
Suzor said Morel’s death devastated her family, especially her mother, Pauline, who was listening to a scanner the night of her son’s death and heard that a cabdriver was in trouble.
Pauline Morel never changed her son’s bedroom after his murder, Suzor said. She died in 2000.
“She always had tears in her eyes . . . I think she was in disbelief that somebody actually shot him,” Suzor said. “She just was never the same.”