Providence County Superior Court P1/15-2222A Associate
Justice Robert D. Krause
State: Virginia M. McGinn Department of Attorney General
Defendant: Susan B. Iannitelli, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Gilbert V. Indeglia, Associate Justice
On July 2, 2015, a grand jury indicted Daniel Tejeda (Tejeda
or defendant) on charges of first-degree murder in violation
of G.L. 1956 § 11-23-1. A Providence County Superior
Court jury convicted the defendant on April 14, 2016. On
appeal, the defendant argues that his trial commenced after
the 180 days required by the Interstate Agreement on
Detainers Act (IAD), G.L. 1956 § 13-13-2, Art. III(a).
He also argues that the trial justice erred in denying his
motions to suppress the seizure of his cell phone and the
records of that cell phone, as well as the bags, zip ties,
and a BB gun retrieved from his apartment. Additionally, he
asserts that the trial justice erred in allowing the
admission of statements made by him while he was in the
hospital. Finally, he alleges that the sentence imposed upon
him was unduly harsh and unwarranted. For the reasons stated
herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
March 31, 2015, Courtney Jewett (Jewett) found her cousin
Ashley Masi (Masi or victim) unconscious in Masi's
bedroom with a zip tie fastened around her neck. Jewett had
been watching Masi's six-month-old child while Masi
engaged in prostitution services in her apartment located on
River Avenue in Providence. Earlier that afternoon, Masi had
posted an advertisement for prostitution services on
Backpage.com. In 2015, Masi had been working as an
escort for at least five years, and she usually engaged
clients through online postings. Generally, when Masi
published a post, she received about twenty to thirty
responses, from which she usually responded to about ten.
March 31 posting was no different. Jewett testified that she
was with Masi when she "started getting replies for her
ad, and her phone was going off like crazy." Shortly
after 3 p.m., Masi told Jewett that a client was on his way,
but the client wanted to look around the apartment when he
arrived. Jewett testified that such a request was not
uncommon because many prostitution clients act paranoid.
Masi's client entered through the back stairwell, and
Jewett testified that she never saw him enter the apartment.
Jewett watched Masi's baby in the front hallway while
Masi saw the client.
testified that Masi had told her that the client would be
there for one hour, so Jewett waited in the hallway with the
baby. Initially, Jewett heard a door open and some muffled
voices, "[a]s if the gentleman was looking around * * *
like he asked her to." After an hour and fifteen minutes
passed, Jewett began to worry, especially when Masi did not
respond to her text messages. Jewett called Masi's phone,
but it was turned off. Around 5:30 p.m., Jewett went upstairs
to Masi's apartment, where she found Masi's
unconscious body on her bedroom floor with an industrial zip
tie tightened around her neck. Masi's shirt was still on
her body, but her pants were hanging over a chair. Her face
was blue, and the floor beneath her head was covered in
blood. Jewett screamed and dialed 9-1-1. Providence police
officers responded to the call, but they were unable to
remove the zip tie from Masi's neck. The fire department
transported her body to the hospital. Masi's time of
death was later determined to be 5:56 p.m.
Investigation and the Arrest
Michael Otrando was assigned to Masi's case, arriving at
the River Avenue apartment on March 31 around 6:30 p.m. He
took Jewett to the police station to obtain her statement,
and he also spoke with Masi's friend, Valerie Kittelt,
who gave him Masi's Backpage password. The Backpage
advertisement Masi posted on March 31 at 1:07 p.m. included
her cell phone number. Masi's phone was not recovered, so
Det. Otrando requested from her phone carrier a call log of
calls and texts made and sent on March 30 and March 31.
Otrando also interviewed Philip Towns, the father of
Masi's six-month-old child. Although Towns was not in a
relationship with Masi at the time of her death, he was
involved in her life with respect to their child. Jewett
testified that Towns had sometimes been violent with Masi,
and in fact had injured her only a few days before her
death-she had a black eye that was still discolored as of
March 31. Towns consented to a search of his cell phone and
gave a DNA sample to Det. Otrando. Detective Otrando also
investigated other individuals considered close to Masi,
including Masi's brother, as well as the second-floor
tenant at the River Avenue apartment, and Towns's
phone records from March 30 and 31 spanned sixteen pages, and
Det. Otrando began to investigate some of the phone numbers
at random, choosing to put some focus on those contacts with
more communications with Masi. During the first week of
April, Det. Otrando chose to lock in on (401) 442-3344, a
number that revealed twenty-five text messages with Masi on
March 31. When he ran it through the police department's
system, Det. Otrando found that it was Tejeda's phone
number. Detective Otrando initially called the number,
unsuccessfully attempting to get defendant to visit the
police station. Then, Det. Otrando learned that defendant was
going to be arrested on a federal supervised release
violation on April 28, 2015. In furtherance of the
investigation, search warrants were obtained for a buccal
swab of defendant, for the cell phone records of the (401)
442-3344 number, and for a search of defendant's
trial, defendant moved to suppress evidence of his cell
phone, including its records, and the items that had been
retrieved from defendant's apartment-bags, zip ties, and
a BB gun. The defendant also moved to suppress his statements
he had made to Det. Otrando while he was in the hospital. The
trial justice denied the majority of defendant's motions,
but he did grant the motion to suppress defendant's
statements made while he was under arrest in the hospital
after defendant said, "I don't want to make a
pretrial suppression hearings, the federal marshals and
officers responsible for arresting defendant on April 28
testified. First, federal Deputy Justin Carvalho, who had
been in charge of the arrest-warrant execution on April 28 at
defendant's home at 17 Van Buren Street, Providence,
testified. A number of U.S. marshals, Rhode Island State
Police officers, and Providence Police officers joined the
arrest team. At the time of the arrest, Deputy Carvalho
testified that he knew defendant was also wanted for
questioning of a homicide in Providence. When the team
arrived at defendant's apartment, his mother answered the
door, and she agreed to let them inside, pointing them
towards defendant's bedroom. The defendant's two
bedroom doors were locked and he had barricaded himself in
the room. Deputy Carvalho recalled standing at one bedroom
door with federal Deputy Elden DaSilva, and he remembered
four team members at the other door: Rhode Island State
Police Det. Sean McGehearty, and federal Deputies Justin
Engen, Brenton Moore, and Joseph Murphy.
the officers broke into the bedroom, one deputy tased
defendant and another officer handcuffed him. The defendant
was wearing only boxer shorts, and Deputy Carvalho could not
remember if another officer gave defendant clothes before
they escorted him outside. Once defendant was secured in a
police vehicle with Det. Christopher Poncia-a Providence
police officer on the Rhode Island State Police Violent
Fugitive Task Force-Deputy Carvalho stated that he followed
the vehicle in his own car to the hospital, later determined
to be Roger Williams Hospital (RWH). However, on
cross-examination, Deputy Carvalho admitted that both his
draft and final arrest reports reflected that he, Deputy
Moore, and Deputy Engen transported defendant to the
hospital. Finally, Deputy Carvalho did not remember seeing
any of the evidence that was allegedly seized by Det.
Poncia-a cell phone, defendant's I.D. card, and a BB gun.
Deputy Carvalho also testified that Det. Poncia never
informed him that he seized a cell phone.
Det. Poncia testified. The day of defendant's arrest,
Det. Poncia was tasked with performing perimeter security
outside defendant's apartment, entering the apartment
after defendant was apprehended. Once inside the apartment,
Det. Poncia testified, he entered defendant's bedroom and
seized a firearm that was on the floor near the mattress.
defendant was taken outside the house, Det. Poncia recalled,
he was wearing pants and a shirt. Subsequently, Det. Poncia
said that he searched defendant for safety reasons, and he
found a cell phone and an I.D. card in defendant's right
front pants pocket. On cross-examination, Det. Poncia
explained that he took the cell phone from defendant in
response to Det. Otrando's request to seize any cellular
devices he found during the arrest.
searching defendant, Det. Poncia recalled driving him to RWH
at defendant's request because of a complaint of taser
injuries. Once he delivered defendant to the destination,
Det. Poncia alerted Det. Otrando as to defendant's
whereabouts. Detective Poncia eventually brought the cell
phone to the Providence Police property room to secure it. He
filled out an incident report for the items seized that day.
defendant was at the hospital, Det. Otrando paid him a visit.
After reading him his rights, Det. Otrando had a short
conversation with him, during which defendant told him his
various phone numbers, one of which was (401) 442-3344. The
defendant said, "I don't want to make a statement,
" but Det. Otrando continued to ask him questions. Prior
to that however, defendant told Det. Otrando that he was at
Rhode Island Hospital (RIH) all day on March 31.
number of other arresting federal marshals also testified at
the suppression hearings. Deputies Moore, Murphy, and DaSilva
each testified that they never saw a cell phone when they
arrested defendant on April 28. Deputies Murphy and DaSilva
also did not know who had given clothes to defendant. While
Deputy Engen could not remember who had done so, he did
testify that officers typically found clothes for defendants
before arresting them. Deputy Engen stated that he did not
search for or seize any evidence while he was in
defendant's bedroom, but he did recall defendant being
tased by Deputy Moore after refusing to show officers his
hands. Deputy Engen handcuffed defendant, and he remembered
that Det. Poncia was the officer who transported defendant to
pretrial hearings, defendant also took the stand, and he
explained that he locked himself in his bedroom to swallow
some Vicodin pills before the police officers broke the door
down. The defendant identified Deputy Carvalho as the marshal
who brought him clothes and drove him to the hospital.
Detective Poncia, defendant remembered, was at the hospital
as well. The defendant testified that he told Deputy
Carvalho, Deputy Engen, and the doctor and nurses at RWH that
he had taken Vicodin that day.
defendant also recalled that his Huawei cell phone was in his
"blue, black, yellow, and gray North Face backpack"
on April 28. That particular phone had been disconnected, and
defendant used it only to connect to the Internet. He
remembered the backpack was next to his bed on the day of the
arrest. The defendant also testified that he did not have any
firearms in plain view in his bedroom that day.
defendant was released from the hospital, he was housed at
the Donald Wyatt Detention Center (Wyatt) in Central Falls.
He requested another opportunity to speak to Det. Otrando. On
April 30, Det. Otrando interviewed defendant, along with Det.
Steve Sullivan at Wyatt. During that interview, defendant
implicated one Ramon Rodriguez in the murder of Masi. The
defendant told some stories about loaning his phone to
Rodriguez, editing the time frame of that alleged loan once
Det. Otrando told him the contacts between defendant's
phone and Masi's were between 2:28 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Throughout the interview, defendant asserted that he had not
spoken to Masi nor had he seen her at any point on March 31.
defendant indicated he would speak further if a particular
prosecutor was present, so the detectives returned the
following day with that prosecutor. The defendant then
admitted he had contacted Masi:
"She told me to come by. I go by. She opens the door,
has a black eye. Chick has a black eye. 'Oh, I ain't
feeling this.' And I leave. Know [what] I mean? I hear
about it the next day. You know?
" * * *
"All of a sudden, inside of me, I'm like, 'Yo,
not only was I there, ' you know what I mean? Like, I
went to see her, who knows.
" * * *
"[B]ut * * * how's it gonna look to probation? You
know what I mean?"
defendant told a few different versions as to who had
supposedly killed Masi, including one of his former
co-workers at Chipotle Restaurant, but the detectives
challenged his inconsistent stories. He never made a final
admission of who killed her.
defendant was at Wyatt, he made a number of phone calls to
his girlfriend, Shakira Caraballo. The first recording was on
April 28, 2015 at 8:40 p.m.:
"Mr. Tejeda: * * * I need her to go to my mom's
house like emergency, a 911, I can't tell you over the
phone right now because it's, like, it's important,
but I need her to go to my mom's house.'
"Ms. Caraballo * * *: 'It's, it's, is it
"Mr. Tejeda: 'Yeah, it's - it's very, very
bad, I need her to go to my mom's house, she knows why
she has to go, but I need her to go to my mom's
defendant proceeded to ask Caraballo to text his child's
mother and tell her to go to his mother's house and pick
up his "blue North Face" and his "big [M]arine
bag" as soon as possible. Then, defendant said:
"TEJEDA: * * * [T]here's something that's going
on that you don't know about, and I can't tell you
over the phone, my love. All right? There's a reason as
to why they went to my house and looked for the SIM card.
Okay? " * * *
"TEJEDA: You tell her, she has to get my North Face bag
and she has to get that bag, emergency, immediately, that I
said so. Tell her that my probation officer went to the house
and looked for the chip from my cell phone. But she needs to
get my North Face."
April 30 at 11:38 a.m., defendant had a phone conversation
with an unknown female. The woman told defendant that she had
not been able to get his "backpacks" from his
mother's house as asked, and when he grew concerned, she
replied, "Yeah, but the sack, the sack, the big sack was
intact, they didn't open it or anything." The woman
clarified that she did end up taking one bag, but it had been
emptied out and she did not see any old phones in the bag.
The defendant responded: "[L]isten to me, this is really
important, really important, I need you to get my INAUDIBLE
off my mom, period * * *. The people from yesterday they went
and they talked to me in the, in the hospital * * * and they
looked for my SIM card * * *." About twenty minutes
later, defendant spoke to the same woman again: "[Y]ou
need to go to ...