Former suspect in cold case sues alleging police department fabricated evidence

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE) – A former murder suspect accused of killing a 10-year-old girl in 1988 is now suing the City of Pawtucket and members of its police department for allegedly fabricating evidence leading to his false arrest.

Joao Monteiro was charged in 2019 with the 1988 killing of 10-year-old Christine Cole. Charges were dropped months later after the State Attorney General’s Office said there wasn’t enough evidence.

His attorney, Mark Loevy-Reyes, tells ABC 6 News that Monteiro had nothing to do with the murder and is seeking justice. He says his life has been up-ended by this case; he lost his job of 15 years and became homeless.

“When the police focus their efforts on the wrong person and try to build a case, a false case, against an innocent person, that leaves the culprit on the streets,” Loevy-Reyes said.

Monteiro filed a 10-count civil complaint at the Rhode Island District Courthouse in hope to clear his name and hold those involved accountable. The complaint alleges malicious prosecution, arrest without probable cause, false imprisonment, and denial of civil rights.

It all stems from the day Cole went missing in 1988. Pawtucket Police say Cole went to the market near her house and never returned. She was later found washed up on a Warwick beach.

Monteiro was arrested after police say his DNA linked to the DNA found on Cole’s pants, but those charges were later dropped.

“The DNA evidence does not single out Mr. Monteiro as the culprit,” Loevy-Reyes said.

The suit states the only person the DNA sample indicated a possible connection to was Monteiro’s son who was born five years after the girl died.

It also alleges the Pawtucket Police Officers took advantage of Monteiro’s limited English skills to ‘fabricate incriminating admissions’ that he lived upstairs from Cole at the time that she died, which Loevy-Reyes says was not true.

“He just simply didn’t live there at the time. He lived there later, much later, well after the girl disappeared,” Loevy-Reyes said.

As for why the Pawtucket Police Department would build a false case, Loevy-Reyes says this:

“The Pawtucket Police Department took a lot of steps to publicize the work they were doing regarding cold cases. They put Mr. Monteiro’s picture on the news; the press conference regarding Mr. Monteiro had this big playing card of the girl.”

However, the Police Department defends their work saying Monteiro continues to be the prime suspect in the case.

A statement from Acting Public safety Director and Police Chief Tina Goncalves read:

“Cold cases always have a high degree of difficulty given the time that elapses. Detective Sue Cormier and the Pawtucket Police Department have a passion for solving these cases and providing closure to the families of the victims. In this particular case, the Department met the burden of proof for probable cause with new testing for the DNA sample to administer an arrest.

The Attorney General’s Office looked at the findings and stated that they would require more information. The Pawtucket Police Department is working closely with the Assistant Attorney General assigned to the case and remains committed to giving the family of 10-year-old Christine Cole closure. At this point, the individual continues to be a prime suspect in the case.

The Pawtucket Police Department does not comment on ongoing litigation.”

Monteiro’s lawyer, Loevy-Reyes, says they’re working to gather all the evidence they need with the intention of bringing this case back to a jury.

Categories: News, Pawtucket, Rhode Island