A Massachusetts woman who was bludgeoned to death in her own home 20 years ago was apparently killed by her half-brother after detectives used DNA on the heavy conch shell used as the murder weapon to link him to the brutal slaying and crack the cold case.
David Reed, 53, allegedly beat Rose Marie Moniz, 41, to death with a cast-iron kettle, a fireplace poker and the shell in March 2001. His DNA was in a database after he attacked another woman – this time with a tire iron – and stole her purse in 2003.
Police finally pieced together the clues this year when detectives were able to get DNA from the conch shell by envisioning how the attacker might have held it.
Based on the abrasions on Moniz’s face, they determined that she was probably struck by the shell’s spiny point, and that the attacker probably held the shell with his fingers inside its opening for leverage.
The DNA evidence led them to Reed, a career criminal who has fled multiple states to avoid prosecution.
He was finally found asleep at the Providence Rescue Mission in Rhode Island, where he was arrested on September 10 and indicted on murder charges Thursday, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office announced.
David Reed, 53 (left), allegedly beat Rose Marie Moniz, 41 (right), to death with a cast-iron kettle, a fireplace poker and the shell in March of 2001
This year, detectives were able to get DNA from the conch shell (pictured) by envisioning how the attacker might have held it. Based on the abrasions on Moniz’s face, they determined that she was probably struck by the shell’s spiny point, and that the attack probably held the shell with his fingers inside its opening for leverage
Moniz’s surviving relatives said they had no idea that their own family member was the culprit behind their beloved sister’s slaying.
‘I didn’t think it was him,’ said Moniz’s brother, Paul Cunha. ‘He was a pallbearer (at her funeral)… [he acted] very quiet, unusually quiet. And then pretty much after that, he disappeared.’
Hours after Moniz’s murder, her father called police when he came to her Acushnet home to bring her to a doctor’s appointment, and found her on the floor in a pool of her own blood.
Moniz’s skull was fractured multiple times, and she was bleeding from both ears and her nose when her father discovered her. Her nose and left cheek bone had been broken, and her body was riddled with ‘gaping lacerations,’ according to the District Attorney’s office.
Picturing the state that the woman’s father found her in fueled detectives to keep plugging away at the cold case.
‘There’s her poor father coming in and seeing a body in that condition. That’s his last memory of his daughter,’ District Attorney Tom Quinn told WCVB.
Both of Moniz’s parents died without knowing who had killed their daughter.
‘My mother and father aged overnight, you could see it,’ Cunha said. ‘It was really tough.’
Moniz (pictured) was discovered with multiple skull fractures, contusions and deep lacerations over her body by her father
Both of Moniz’s parents died without knowing who had killed their daughter.’My mother and father aged overnight, you could see it,’ Paul Cunha, her brother, said. ‘It was really tough.’ Moniz, top right, is pictured with her father, bottom right, mother, bottom left, and Cunha, top left
Before they had identified her killer, police believed that robbery was the motive in Moniz’s slaying. Her purse had been emptied at the scene and cash had been stolen. But there was no sign of forced entry into her home.
Reed’s violent life of crime continued on June 10, 2003, when he beat Maribel Martinez-Alegria while she was seated in his truck before shoving her out of the vehicle into a dark alley in New Bedford and driving away with her belongings.
Police are pictured outside Moniz’s Achusnet home in 2001
Three weeks later, the woman recognized a car circling her neighborhood as the one she had been attacked in and thrown out of. She tried calling a detective in her case and told her relatives in the house.
When her nephew saw the car pass by the house again, her nephew and five other individuals jumped into their minivan and gave pursuit, prosecutors said. Reed tried to shake the following minivan, but its occupants flagged down the police.
Reed struck a parked vehicle as he tried to flee, then crashed head-on into the police cruiser of Officer Alan Ferber
‘Even after the crash, the suspect attempted to use his truck in an attempt to push the cruiser out of the way to facilitate his escape,’ prosecutors said, according to Law and Crime.
Reed was charged with robbery, assault and for ramming the police cruiser, but he never showed up for his court date after he was released on bail. He lived in Florida, Hawaii and Alabama before returning to Massachusetts.
‘He took one of my best friends, my sister,’ Moniz’s brother, Paul Cunha, said. ‘He took one of my best friends, my sister,’ Cunha said of Reed. ‘He robbed us all of a life of growing old together’
‘I didn’t think it was him [Reed],’ said Moniz’s brother, Paul Cunha, said. ‘He was a pallbearer (at her funeral)… [he acted] very quiet, unusually quiet. And then pretty much after that, he disappeared’
He was on the lam until 2015 – prosecutors didn’t specify how he was caught – but Alegria had passed away in Boston six months before his capture.
There was insufficient evidence to convict him on the robbery and assault charges, prosecutors said, but he served four years in state prison for bail jumping, evading police and damaging property. During that time, his DNA sample was added to the database.
Citing the newly-obtained evidence, Reed was also slapped with the previously-abandoned robbery and assault charges for his attack on Alegria.
But when police tried to arrest him in 2020, prosecutors said, he almost immediately fled to Alabama. He traveled to California, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania and finally Rhode Island, where he was captured.
A court date at the Fall River Division of the Bristol Superior Court has yet to be set for Reed, but Moniz’s family said they plan to be at every court hearing.
‘He took one of my best friends, my sister,’ Cunha said of Reed. ‘He robbed us all of a life of growing old together.’