Metro

Woman held for evaluation in uncle’s shooting death

Yvonne Lewis, was brought into the West Roxbury courtroom by court officers for her arraignment on charges that she killed her uncle, Clive Francis.
Angela Rowlings/Pool
Yvonne Lewis, was brought into the West Roxbury courtroom by court officers for her arraignment on charges that she killed her uncle, Clive Francis.

Yvonne Lewis hid her face as she entered the first session of West Roxbury District Court on Monday, as court officers pulled her lethargic body by the arms. Lewis was being arraigned for the Saturday slaying of her uncle, 49-year-old Clive Francis of Mattapan, but she only arrived in court after a district judge ordered officers to drag her in.

Lewis, 36, was not speaking to her lawyer, court officers, or the court mental health specialist, they told Judge Kathleen Coffey, and repeatedly ignored requests to appear in court under her own power.

“She will not speak to me,” Jeffrey Karp, her court-appointed attorney, said in court. “I believe she is hearing voices.”

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Behind him, the shooting victim’s widow, Tracy Francis, sat in the court gallery clutching her wedding picture. When Lewis was finally brought in, the victim’s mother and the accused shooter’s grandmother, Inez Francis, began to cry loudly.

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Coffey ruled that Lewis must undergo an evaluation within 20 days, to determine whether she is mentally competent to stand trial for murder.

A report of that evaluation will given to the court on Nov. 16, and until then, Lewis will remain in police custody. A plea of not guilty was entered on her behalf.

“[Lewis] has been communicating with herself and I have not been able to have any meaningful conversation with her,” Karp said, after the arraignment.

As Lewis shielded her face from view, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum gave the Commonwealth’s account Saturday afternoon’s events in Hyde Park, which went uncontested by the defense.

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Many of the presented facts were previously reported by The Boston Globe.

According to Polumbaum, Francis was called to 239 Wood Ave. at the request of family in the hope that he could calm down Lewis.

Lewis had been acting “erratically and reclusively” in the months before the shooting, Polumbaum said, and family saw her uncle’s presence and personality as a calming influence.

Lewis lived on the third floor of her parents’ split-level home, and was breaking and throwing glass mirrors before Francis visited.

Later, family members who were downstairs heard someone leave the house and went to check on Francis upstairs.

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They arrived to find him in a pool of his own blood. Francis had been shot in the head, and he died later at the hospital, Polumbaum said. The family members in the house had the television on with the volume turned up and did not hear the three gunshots that prosecutors say were fired.

Prosecutors said Lewis owned a firearm she obtained legally in Georgia. They found an empty gun holster nearby but not the weapon.

Lewis’s mother and Francis’ 11-year-old son were in the house, family members told the Globe.

All family members present at Monday’s arraignment declined to comment.

In previous interviews, family members said Lewis was struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine and Francis was trying to help her. There were late nights when Francis, whom family described as the consummate uncle, would roam the streets looking for “his favorite niece.” Two weeks ago, Francis called his sister, Kay, to bemoan Lewis’s deteriorating condition, said the victim’s sister-in-law, Terrion Francis, on Sunday.

“He helped everyone, but especially [Yvonne],” Terrion Francis said. “He would always look out for her to make sure she’s OK.”

Prosecutors did not present a clear motive for the alleged shooting.

Instead, Polumbaum outlined how officers were able to locate Lewis, after she eluded authorities for about five hours.

Lewis fled the house in her uncle’s red Nissan Pathfinder, having left her own car at Logan Airport the previous week, Polumbaum said in court.

Police eventually found Francis’ vehicle, and Lewis, after tracking a family member’s cellphone, which was still in the car.

They found Lewis “curled up” on the hallway floor of a Peabody hotel, prosecutors said. She was uncooperative throughout her arrest and booking, Polumbaum said. Boston police homicide investigators, the Boston Police Special investigations unit, the Peabody police, and a state trooper were all involved in the arrest.

The assistant district attorney said Lewis’s behavior in court Monday “continued the pattern” of apparent mental distress. The Commonwealth did not object to the ordered mental health evaluation.

Hours before the arraignment began, more than 20 family members, including Francis’ widow, children, siblings, parents, and co-workers, filled the small courtroom.

Many wept openly in the hallways and at one point, Inez Francis, the victim’s mother and the accused shooter’s grandmother, had to be carried out.

When she returned to the courtroom, the victim’s son, Clive Francis Jr., put his arm around his grandmother and kissed her.

Moments later, Lewis was hauled in by officers.

Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.