Boston police officers knew who they were looking for as they climbed the stairs to a third-floor apartment in Roxbury just after noon Sunday. Earlier in the day, a woman had contacted police to help get her husband, Valdir B. Chaves, out of their home.
They did, but Chaves returned just a few hours later, fatally stabbing her in their bedroom in a blind rage, officials said.
The officers found Chaves on the second-floor landing, facing the wall with his hands behind his back, according to a police report.
“I need to go to jail,” he told officers, according to the report. “I am ready to be arrested.”
The woman, Dora Chaves, was 38, Chaves’s lawyer said. She and Chaves were raising four children from previous relationships.
On Monday, Chaves, 43, was ordered held without bail to charges of murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. At his arraignment in Roxbury Municipal Court, he wore a white Tyvek jumpsuit with the hood pulled over his head and cinched to hide his face. Chaves pleaded not guilty. Police took the clothes he was wearing Sunday as evidence, his lawyer, Earl Howard, said.
“He is in a somewhat — I would say a confused state,” Howard said. “He’s not too sure of what’s going on here.” Chaves had been working as a delivery man, Howard said.
Chaves and his wife had an argument Saturday night, prompting her to leave the house, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum said in court. She returned with police early Sunday morning.
She was “not reporting any crime against her at that time, but asking that the police get him to leave the house, which he did,” Polumbaum said.
When Chaves returned to the Clarence Street home, he and his wife went into the bedroom and argued behind a locked door. When Chaves emerged, he was covered in blood, Polumbaum said.
“His claim was the last thing he remembered was the victim yelling at him or arguing with him,” Polumbaum said. “Next thing he knew, she was in that state of being seriously wounded and he had no memory or no idea of how she got that way.”
Whether police officers should have arrested Chaves initially depends heavily on the specifics of the case, which were not available Monday, said Maureen Flores, civilian domestic violence advocacy program manager for Quincy-based DOVE Inc., or Domestic Violence Ended.
“This is a common call from the police, that the victim just wants things to calm down and just get their needs met in that way,” Flores said. “If she said nothing about anything physical happening — if he didn’t assault her or threaten to assault her when she called in the morning, the police are kind of limited.”
Under Massachusetts law, officers are encouraged — but not required — to make an arrest when there is evidence of physical abuse or threats of violence, Flores said.
“A lot of victims say that ‘I don’t want them arrested, I don’t want to move forward with charges.’ But police still arrest,” Flores said. “We have no idea where that person is going to be the next hour, the next day.”
Toni K. Troop, a spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc., said police officers and victim advocates use questionnaires to assess the risk of violence. Has the abuser threatened to kill you? Does he or she have access to firearms? Have you been strangled or forced to have sex? Has the violence escalated?
Those all require people being abused to participate, which they are sometimes reluctant to do, she said.
“This is why it’s so challenging,” Troop said. “We never blame the victim for any violence that might be perpetrated against them because we understand the real barriers that might be in place for them to speak out and seek services. The threat of violence can sometimes intimidate victims.”
Chaves’s mother, Maria Isabel de Brito, was staying with the family over the weekend, she said in a brief interview on Sunday.
“He used to be a good son,” she said, speaking through a translator.
The couple’s landlord, Augusto Pina, said they had lived in the apartment for several years, and Chaves never seemed to be a problem until about two or three months ago, when he began playing loud music and using “bad words” while sitting on the apartment building’s steps.
“He’s changed like day and night,” Pina said.
Clarence Street is part of the Cape Verdean community’s hub in Roxbury. Dulce Ferreira, director of domestic violence and sexual assault services for the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers, called on community members to speak more openly about the issue.
“We know that domestic violence remains a delicate subject in the Cabo Verdean community and others, and even though many are comfortable enough to reach out for support, many more do not act in fear of retaliation or of being negatively judged by the community,” Ferreira said. “This tragic event highlights the enormous amount of work that is still needed to prevent domestic violence in our communities, and we encourage everyone facing domestic violence to seek help.”
Globe correspondent John Hilliard contributed to this report. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-929-2043.