Prosecutors say Alexander Mills, 18, bragged to others that he had shot a cab driver Saturday night. On Tuesday, Mills and a 16-year-old were formally charged in the shooting death that had stunned New Bedford residents and left friends and family reeling.
The cab driver, Donald A. DePina, was just two weeks shy of his 67th birthday when he was killed, allegedly by Mills and an unnamed juvenile, prosecutors said Tuesday. A Vietnam veteran, DePina had worked to help other veterans as the city’s director of veterans’ services before retiring eight years ago.
After his retirement, he began working part-time as a cabdriver with Blue Bird Taxi, in part because “he enjoyed interacting with people,” prosecutors said.
His killing, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said, was “a very disturbing and pointless act.”
DePina’s Saturday night shift began like so many others: He spoke on the phone to his son, Barry, before picking up a fare around 10:20 p.m. from a gas station on Purchase Street.
DePina picked up Mills and a 16-year-old, and drove them to a remote location in Brooklawn Park as requested, assistant district attorney Patrick Bomberg said in court Tuesday. The ride cost $6.50.
Bomberg said when they arrived at the destination, Mills fired a single shot into the back of DePina’s head. Mills then got out of the taxi and shot DePina a second time, Bomberg said.
Mills removed DePina’s body from the cab and took his belongings, Bomberg said.
Mills was arraigned Tuesday in New Bedford District Court on charges of armed robbery, murder, and carrying a firearm without a license. He pleaded not guilty.
During the arraignment, Bomberg said Mills and the 16-year-old, whose name has not been released because he is a juvenile, got into the front of the taxi, and Mills attempted to drive but instead crashed into a curb. The collision activated a recording system that captured Mills on video, Bomberg said.
Mills allegedly then tried to make purchases using DePina’s credit cards. Bomberg said surveillance footage and witnesses saw Mills and the teen on Acushnet Avenue.
Bomberg said Mills was also seen that night with the handgun used in DePina’s killing. In Fairhaven, Mills allegedly left a round of ammunition that matched the casings found at the scene, Bomberg said.
State Police assigned to the Bristol District Attorney’s Office and New Bedford Police arrested Mills and the 16-year-old boy in the South End area of New Bedford on Monday.
Judge Cynthia Brackett on Tuesday ordered Mills held without bail at Bridgewater State Hospital, where he’ll have a mental health evaluation.
Mills’s attorney, J. Drew Segadelli, requested that a court psychologist evaluate his client, who told the psychologist Tuesday he hallucinates and “hears voices that tell him disparaging things about himself and to harm people,” Segadelli said.
The court psychologist said Mills told her that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from an incident when he was 11.
Segadelli said Mills had been committed to the Department of Youth Services until he turned 21. He said Mills has “significant mental health issues” and a history of taking medication.
But Bomberg argued that Mills’s claims are disingenuous.
“This is consistent with the defendant’s M.O. when he gets into trouble,” he said. “He raises the issue of hearing voices.”
Mills left a halfway house in Fall River last month, violating his probation in a robbery case, Bomberg said.
The 16-year-old was arraigned in New Bedford Juvenile Court on Tuesday and was ordered held, said Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the Bristol district attorney’s office.
DePina’s family wept as Bomberg detailed DePina’s killing in court. DePina’s daughter, Janine DePina, was helped out of the courtroom by her brother, Barry DePina. They declined to comment after the hearing.
DePina’s friend John G. Andrade, a Marine veteran of Vietnam, said, “They will suffer just for the simple fact they killed a person like this.”
“Here is a man who could have helped [Mills] with his PTSD, if he had it,” he said.