By Douglas Moser
---- — LAWRENCE — Police arrested one man yesterday and were searching for another suspected of threatening the lives of two witnesses in a recent murder trial.
Jose Davilla, 25, 13 Cedar St., was arrested at home and charged with intimidating a witness after Lawrence police and officers from the State Police Violent Fugitive team searched his home. They also searched for Rafael Rodriguez, 22, 28 Juniper St., #1, on a similar charge, but did not find him at home.
“Intimidating a witness, especially in a murder case, is serious,” said police Chief John Romero.
Police seized a revolver, a “substantial amount” of ammunition, computers and storage drives at Rodriguez’ Juniper Street apartment. Lawrence and State Police searched the apartments yesterday morning and afternoon.
According to the police affidavit, Davilla and Rodriguez posted at least two pictures on the popular photo-sharing website Instagram of two key murder trial witnesses over the weekend, adding text that essentially called them snitches. One of the witnesses was in fear of life, and had heard from friends that retribution was being planned. Friends were being told over the weekend to avoid the two witnesses.
Police determined that the pictures were posted on accounts registered to Davilla and Rodriguez, according to the affidavit.
The charges stem from the murder trial of Jose Ruiz, 28, and continue a years-long saga of violence and retribution surrounding the murder of a 33-year-old Methuen man on Broadway in Lawrence amid a particularly brutal night in July 2009.
A jury found Ruiz guilty of second-degree murder in Lawrence Superior Court yesterday following a five-day trial. Judge Richard Welch III sentenced Ruiz to life in prison with the possibility of parole, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
Ruiz also was found guilty of carrying a firearm without a license and sentenced to four to five years, to be served concurrently.
State Police believe Rodriguez has a strong allegiance to Ruiz.
On Saturday, July 25, 2009, police responded to two shootings and several stabbings. At 2:28 a.m., police received calls reporting shots fired at a strip mall at 360 Broadway. They found Rolando Fuentes, 33, of 38 Larchwood Road, Methuen, lying on the ground in the parking lot in a pool of blood near a black motorcycle, according to the police report.
Police spoke with Fuentes’ brother Orlando Fuentes, who tried to get to his brother but was held back by police. Orlando Fuentes told officers he did not know who did the shooting.
But a half hour later, police responded to another series of calls of shots fired, this time at 167 Willow Street, where a 71-year-old man was shot in the neck. That man was an older relative of Jose Ruiz.
“Essex Assistant District Attorney AJ Camelio proved that in the early morning hours of July 25, 2009, Ruiz shot and killed Rolando Fuentes, 33, in a parking lot at 360 Broadway in Lawrence,” Kimball-Monahan said in a statement released yesterday. “The shooting was the culmination of an ongoing feud between Ruiz, (Rolando) Fuentes and his brother Orlando Fuentes.”
Orlando Fuentes pleaded guilty on Dec. 6, 2011, to armed assault to murder, home invasion and illegal possession of a firearm for the shooting at the Ruiz house shortly after the murder, Kimball-Monahan said. He was sentenced to seven to eight years in state prison, followed by three years of probation.
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