WOONSOCKET — A Superior Court judge sentenced David P. Leite to life in prison yesterday for the grisly stabbing death of his live-in girlfriend in their Park Square apartment in 2009.
Leite, 35, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder before Judge Susan McGuirl just hours before he was to stand trial in the death of Mellisa “Missy” Perry. He must serve at least 20 years before he’s eligible for parole.
Prosecutor John E. Corrigan told the court that if Leite had gone to trial the state would have proven that he stabbed and slashed Perry 79 times with a utility knife.
Her injuries also included a broken neck and broken ribs that were caused by blunt force trauma, said Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for the attorney general.
Perry’s mother, Jo-Anne Boyer of Pawtucket, said she and about a dozen other family members attended the hearing, wearing T-shirts featuring a photograph of her daughter. A few reacted with audible gasps when they heard Corrigan describe Missy’s wounds for the first time, she said.
It was a tough day for all of them, but at least there was the consolation of seeing Leite get some justice for what he did, said Boyer.
“You never really get over it,” she said. “In my mind even if they had the death penalty it’s too humane for what he did to my daughter. I'm glad this phase of it is over, but it still leaves a huge sadness because I still don’t have my daughter, and my grandchildren don’t have their mother, and they suffer the most.”
At one point yesterday, Leite addressed the court, apologizing for his actions and professing that, in spite of them, he actually loved Perry.
“Please,” Boyer says with a tone of flat disbelief.
Leite claims the murder was the result of an argument that got out of hand when Missy called him “a baby” for complaining after she accidentally cut him with a knife, says Boyer, but she doesn’t believe that, either.
Woonsocket police found Perry’s ravaged body in the Ormond Street apartment she shared with Leite on March 14, 2009, after Leite crashed his car in Lincoln.
Yesterday, Corrigan told the court that the body was found some two days after the murder actually occurred.
Corrigan said that after the killing, the first thing Leite did was clean himself up. Then he went to a nearby restaurant and relaxed for a while over an iced coffee.
For the next day and a half, Leite acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Hours after the killing, he drove to work. At 2 in the morning, he clocked out and drove to Foxwoods to gamble.
Later, he checked into a nearby hotel to rest, then returned to Rhode Island the following day and rented a hotel room in Pawtucket. After sleeping through the night, he showered and drove to Twin River in Lincoln, where he gambled some more.
On Saturday, March 14, Lincoln police responded to a single-car crash on Old Louisquisset Pike, where they found Leite in a silver Nissan Sentra lodged against a tree. Rescue personnel found a note in Leite’s wallet, in which he admitted that he killed Perry and indicated where her body could be found.
It was later determined he had purposely driven into the tree, Kempe said, but she declined to characterize his actions as an attempted suicide.
Though they were not living with her when she was killed, Perry had three children, two boys and a girl who are now 17, 13 and 10 years old, respectively. Boyer says they didn’t attend the sentencing hearing and still don’t know the particulars of how their mother died.
“We don’t even want them to read the newspapers,” she says.
Perry and Leite had both been living in Pawtucket until a few weeks before her death, says Boyer. They met on the social networking site myspace.com in November 2008.
Leite was working as a district manager for the Amazing Superstore, a national distributor of pornographic videos, while Missy was looking for a job as a nursing assistant.
For much of the time they dated, Boyer said, Leite was living with his parents, while Missy was living with her in an apartment on Broadway.
“He was here all day and every weekend,” recalls Boyer. “The only thing he did at his parents’ house was sleep.”
The pattern continued when Missy moved in with her sister, Tina Ndiaye, in Woonsocket. Finally, about a month before the murder, they moved into the second-story apartment at 33 Ormond St. Missy liked the location because she didn’t have a car and she could walk to her new job at Mt. St. Francis Health Center.
Family members were never really comfortable with Leite’s invasive style, but they didn’t object to his relationship with Missy because he seemed caring and responsible.
As time went on, however, Boyer says Missy complained that Leite was too controlling — a common refrain among victims of domestic violence.
“This was a brutal, senseless act upon someone who the defendant claimed he loved with all his heart,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. “There was nothing about the defendant’s actions that could ever be perceived as love. Domestic violence is not love. Domestic violence is about power and control and is a serious crime that too often leads to tragedy.”