AG says evidence not strong enough to convict man in 1988 murder of Christine Cole

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office announced Friday that the evidence against a Central Falls man in the 1988 murder of Christine Cole is just not strong enough, and they will not proceed with the case.

Christine Cole left her home on January 6, 1988— just days after her tenth birthday— to go to the market. That was the last time she was ever seen alive.

On February 28, 54 days later, her body washed up on a Warwick beach. The murder went unsolved for over three decades until a determined Pawtucket detective said she cracked the case in July of 2019.

Joao Monteiro, 59, was charged with Cole’s murder after police said DNA on Cole’s pants matched his. He lived upstairs from the market where Cole was last seen.

But now, the Attorney General’s office says the key evidence is the “Y-STR DNA”, which matches Monteiro and all of his paternal male relatives. 

“The evidence in this case, including the DNA evidence, does not at the present time meet this standard. The DNA and other evidence, as it exists at the present time, does not narrow the field of those culpable for the death of Christine Cole to the degree necessary to move forward with a prosecution of the defendant,” said Kristy DosReis, spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office.

The Attorney General’s court filing to dismiss the charges can be found here:

Monteiro’s attorney has been saying the DNA would not hold up in court for months.

“That evidence—it may include people in my client’s lineage. But we’re talking about thousands and thousands of people who could potentially have this DNA,” said William Devine, Monteiro’s attorney. 

A spokesperson for the Pawtucket Police Department said it respects the AG’s decision to drop the charges.

“We will continue to work our case and look forward to working with the Attorney General’s office on this matter,” said Det. Sgt. Christopher LeFort.

Monteiro was released on bail shortly after his arrest in July 2019. Devine said the charges ruined his client’s life.

“He worked at the same job for the last 13 years. He was let go of that job. He was not able to pay his bills and rent, so he had to leave his apartment,” said Devine.

He said his client just wants his life to go back to normal.

“He lived a very modest life. He worked every day, he was a working guy,” said Devine.

Monteiro’s arrest was the first arrest for the Pawtucket Police in the “Cold Case Cards”, a deck of 52 unsolved cold cases.

Detective Susan Cormier was the lead investigator.

“Seeking justice for little Christine Cole is long overdue,” Detective Cormier said in July.

Christine Cole’s family was not initially told by Pawtucket Police or the Attorney General’s Office about the case potentially being dropped. The family was alerted by ABC6 on Monday.

“I feel like my sister Christine can finally be at rest,” said Cole’s brother after Monteiro was initially arrested in July. He spoke only to ABC6.

The family met with the AG’s office and detectives this week for an update on the case.

The motion to dismiss the charges will be officially be heard in court on Tuesday, February 4th.

The charges would be dismissed without prejudice and there’s no statute of limitations for homicide, so Monteiro could be arrested and charged again if police find more substantial evidence. 

© WLNE-TV 2020

 

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