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Victor Arciliares

Other Murder Exonerations with Jailhouse Informants
In October 2009, 20-year-old Victor Arciliares was arrested in the shooting death of his girlfriend, 18-year-old Dayvelliz Cotto, in Providence, Rhode Island. Arciliares claimed that he was examining a handgun and it accidently discharged, striking Cotto.

He was released on bond in November 2009, but was taken back into custody in November 4, 2010 after a grand jury indicted him on charges of murder and using a firearm to commit a crime of violence.

In March 2012, Arciliares went to trial in Providence County Superior Court. He was convicted of second-degree murder and using a firearm to commit a crime of violence. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 45 years.

Three months later, on May 29, 2012, a grand jury indicted Arciliares for another murder—committed on October 30, 2010—while he was still out on bond on the charge of killing his girlfriend.

The indictment named Arciliares as the gunman who fired several shots from a black BMW at another car in Pawtucket that killed the driver, 20-year-old Alfredo Barros, and wounded the front-seat passenger, 20-year-old Ruben Gomes.

In January 2013, Arciliares went to trial in Providence County Superior Court. Gomes testified that shortly after midnight on October 30, 2010, he and another friend, Jason Dacruz, were riding with Barros. They were followed by another friend, Walter Silva, who was driving a separate car. They had spent the evening drinking and smoking marijuana, and they drove from Attleboro, Massachusetts to Providence to find a place to drink and party.

They drove around the Providence downtown nightclub area. They then headed over to Broad Street where there was “always a scene,” stopping to purchase liquor at a bootlegger.

Gomes testified that between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m., after they finished the liquor, both cars pulled into a Shell gas station located on Thurbers Avenue in Providence. When they arrived, there was a disturbance in progress, with Providence police on the scene to calm the situation.

Gomes said that Barros and Dacruz entered the station to buy drinks while he stayed outside in Barros’s Chrysler. Gomes said he saw Silva arguing with a short, bald man whom Gomes did not recognize. Gomes said that when Barros came out of the station, he approached Silva and got involved in the argument, which grew to involve others who were in a black BMW.

Gomes said Barros tried to involve him and Dacruz in the argument, but they convinced Barros to get in the car and leave. Gomes said they decided to go to Pawtucket, where they all had grown up, to “hang out.”

As they drove, they noticed the black BMW driving erratically behind them. It swerved back and forth across the centerline, and then passed them. Barros followed the BMW, and Silva followed Barros in his own car. Gomes said the cars chased each other through the side streets of Providence and then up Route I-95 North. The BMW exited I-95 and drove to the Chad Brown housing project in Providence, where it pulled over. Gomes said that more than a dozen people immediately surrounded the car.

Barros drove into the housing project, but left without stopping upon seeing the crowd gathered at the BMW. Silva followed in his car.

Barros left Route I-95 again at Pawtucket and Silva continued north. Gomes said that while they waited at the third traffic light at the corner of George and Marrin Streets, the BMW, which had apparently followed them, pulled up very close to the passenger side of the Chrysler. Gomes said Barros rolled the tinted passenger window halfway down and “flipped the bird at them or something.” Gomes said several shots were fired from the BMW. He said he saw the driver’s forehead, but did not recognize him. The BMW drove off continuing straight ahead.

Barros was shot twice and died. Gomes was grazed in the arm. Gomes admitted that he was drunk at the time police interviewed him, and that his recollection of the night was cloudy.

Dacruz testified that he heard two “pops” and saw the BMW drive off. He admitted that he initially told police the shots came from a black Jeep He said he had consumed more than half of a bottle of cognac and was “fuzzy” about the night.

Detective Richard LaForest testified that he obtained surveillance footage from the Shell gas station. The video showed there had been between 50 and 100 people at the station that night, including three Providence police officers who responded to a fight that preceded the arrival of Barros and the others. LaForest said he spotted Arciliares when he reviewed the video. On May 17, 2011, he met with Arciliares, who was in jail awaiting trial for the shooting of his girlfriend. LaForest said Arciliares was a witness, not a suspect at that time, but did not testify about the substance of the interview.

LaForest also testified that about a month later, in June 2011, a jail cellmate of Arciliares, Raymond Baccaire, claimed that Arciliares had confessed to the shooting. LaForest testified that he interviewed Baccaire, who said that Arciliares admitted during conversations in their cell that after a confrontation at the Shell station, he was in the BMW that chased Barros and that he fired the shots.

During cross-examination of LaForest by Arciliares defense attorney Judith Crowell, LaForest admitted that in his review of the surveillance video, he did not see any “altercation” between the members of Barros's group and Arciliares, even though he had looked for one.

Asked about his interview with Arciliares, LaForest testified that he remembered the meeting was at the jail. When Crowell then asked about the conversation, the prosecution objected to further defense questions about that meeting. Outside the presence of the jury, Crowell told the trial judge that LaForest had shown photographs from the video to Arciliares at the meeting. She argued that Arciliares had talked about the photos with Baccaire, who then regurgitated that information in the form of Arciliares admitting to the crime.

“This is one of the things that I think Baccaire will testify to—that he spoke to my client about (the interview) and it is our position that this is one of the sources of Baccaire’s information about the crime,” Crowell said.

The judge granted the prosecution objection and Crowell was not allowed to ask LaForest about the meeting with Arciliares. LaForest further testified that no murder weapon was ever found nor was a black BMW ever located. He admitted that the police had never established a connection between Barros and his friends and Arciliares—except that they were all at the same Shell station at some point that night.

The prosecution introduced photographs from the video footage showing Arciliares standing outside the station at the gas pumps with a man named Rolando Rojas and a third man who was not identified. Another photograph showed Rojas getting into a black BMW. However, there was no photo of Arciliares or the third man near or getting into the BMW.

Baccaire testified and admitted that he had a long list of prior crimes, and that he had received suspended sentences on several pending charges in return for his testimony. An eighth grade dropout, Baccaire said he first overhead Arciliares discussing the shooting while they were both in the jail common area. He said that he and his cellmate figured out the way inmates were assigned to cells, and realized that if they were transferred, Baccaire would be moved to a cell with Arciliares, who had no cellmate.

He said they forced their toilet to overflow and he was assigned to Arciliares’s cell.

Baccaire admitted that once he became Arciliares’s cellmate, it was easier to get the information that he used to obtain his release. Baccaire said that he had not heard anything about the shooting and that Arciliares ultimately said that the shooting started with “a fight that took place at a Shell gas station…they started arguing, and they came out, they had words and they got in the car and left.” Baccaire said Arciliares claimed the BMW was his—although there was no evidence he ever owned a BMW.

Baccaire also admitted that after his release and prior to the trial, he had committed other crimes, been arrested on a probation violation, and had subsequently been released.

Arciliares did not testify. Crowell called a police officer who was among the first to respond to the shooting. The officer said that Dacruz’s first statement was that the shots came from a black Jeep—not a black BMW.

On January 25, 2013, Arciliares was convicted of murder, attempted murder, firing a weapon from a vehicle, and using a firearm to commit a crime. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison to be served consecutive to the sentence imposed in the case involving his girlfriend’s death.

In January 2015, the Rhode Island Supreme Court reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial. The court held that the defense should have been allowed to question Detective LaForest about the substance of his meeting with Arciliares. “Preventing defendant from eliciting the foundation for a defense that he knew the details of the murder because Det. LaForest had revealed them to him, rather than because he was the murderer, was prejudicial error because it undercut Arciliares’s strongest defense,” the court said.

Arciliares went to trial a second time in May 2016, during which Crowell cross-examined Detective LaForest extensively about his meeting with Arciliares. LaForest said that he showed the photographs from the surveillance video, and talked about the BMW and the confrontation at the station.

Baccaire also testified and by this time, he had racked up more criminal charges for subsequent crimes.

On May 24, 2016, the jury acquitted Arciliares.

Arciliares remained in jail, awaiting a second trial in the shooting of his girlfriend. Two months earlier, in March 2016, Arciliares was granted a new trial because an erroneous jury instruction was given in that trial.

In March 2019, Arciliares pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/20/2018
Last Updated: 3/10/2019
State:Rhode Island
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Other Violent Felony, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2010
Age at the date of reported crime:21
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No