Valerie Cirilo-Perez did not only work for College Bound Dorchester; she also personified the ideals of the nonprofit group, which seeks to steer college drop-outs back to school.
"They influenced me to do better for myself and child," Cirilo-Perez, 25, said in August on a Boston radio show. In the same show, her mentor called her a success story and a "super parent."
But on Tuesday, Cirilo-Perez wept in Dorchester District Court as she was arraigned for the murder of her 28-year-old boyfriend Anthony Sinclair. Cirilo-Perez pleaded not guilty to the charges and was ordered held in custody without bail.
Few details of the incident were released during the arraignment, because Cirilo-Perez's court-appointed attorney did not protest to his client remaining incarcerated.
In the police report, officers said they arrived at Cirilo-Perez's third-floor Dorchester apartment at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday and found the victim lying on the floor with stab wounds in chest and a small knife lying nearby. Sinclair was taken to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Cirilo-Perez called the police to her home on Nightingale Street, and told them that Sinclair had attacked her, and that she stabbed him in response, according to the report.
Henry Johnson, who lives on the floor below Cirilo-Perez's apartment, said he had heard the couple argue loudly frequently.
"I heard them wrestling, every other night," Johnson said. "Last night, I actually heard someone screaming and then run toward the kitchen."
Soon, about 10 police officers were "kicking in the door," he said.
In October, Johnson said the building's landlord got involved after Cirilo-Perez and Sinclair had another violent dispute. Johnson, who lives in the second floor unit with his wife and children, said he has long considered the relationship to be dangerous.
On Monday night, less than three hours before she called police, Cirilo-Perez left an invective-laden post about relationship troubles and its potential impact on motherhood on her Facebook page.
In court, the shackled Cirilo-Perez waved to friends and family from the other side of a plexiglass barrier that separated the accused and the courtroom gallery.
Cirilo-Perez's mentor at College Bound Dorchester, Kamal Parker, , who had spoken so highly of her on WBUR in August, expressed shock at the turn of events.
"This is not something you expect," Parker said in a phone interview. "Especially when it's someone who has turned their life around."
Parker said Cirilo-Perez was pursuing associate's degree in business at Bunker Hill Community College, and was working as an assistant in the finance department of College Bound Dorchester. Parker said she has worked for the organization for two years.
"She was one of our star students," Parker said. "She was one of the students where we said, 'This is what she's done,' and she was a testament to what anyone could do."
Jackie Herskovitz Russell, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit, said "the staff is heartbroken by the news and offers condolences to all parties and their families."
Attempts to contact the victim's family and friends were unsuccessful. Cirilo-Perez's supporters in court refused to comment on the case.
She is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 8.
Toni Troop, a communications director for a statewide coalition against domestic violence called Jane Doe Inc., said this marked the 24th domestic violence related death in Massachusetts in 2015.
A police spokesman said Sinclair's death is the city's 34th homicide this year. The city had 52 homicides by the end of December last year.
Parker, Cirilo-Perez's mentor, said the incident marked an unfortunate ending to what had been a heartwarming story.
In the August radio interview, when the host asked Cirilo-Perez would she thought she would be if not for College Bound Dorchester, she answered without hesitation.
"Probably locked up," she said.