See Press Release Below from DA Rachel Rollins’ Office
BOSTON, Oct. 26, 2021 A 60-year-old man was ordered held without bail following his arraignment today on murder charges in connection with the 1988 strangulation of Judy Chamberlain, District Attorney Rachael Rollins announced.
RICHARD VEGA, a.k.a RICARDO MAZZARINO, a convicted sex offender currently committed under Massachusetts’ sexually dangerous person statute, will remain incarcerated after Superior Court Judge Mark A. Hallal agreed with the Commonwealth that Vega be held without bail.
Ms. Chamberlain was found strangled in the basement of the Fargo Building at 451 D Street in South Boston on July 28, 1988. A maintenance worker discovered her lifeless body. Biological evidence collected during the autopsy indicates that she was sexually assaulted by her killer within 24 hours after she was last seen alive. A DNA sample collected during the initial investigation was submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS), which compares samples from unknown assailants with the DNA profiles of known offenders.
Suffolk prosecutors and detectives assigned to the Boston Police Department’s Homicide Unit identified Mr. Vega as a suspect in 2011, when the CODIS database matched the suspected killer’s DNA to Mr. Vega’s DNA profile. Mr. Vega was required to submit a DNA sample as a result of his 1990 conviction on three counts of rape in connection with a 1987 attack on a 72-year-old woman in Revere. Mr. Vega was sentenced to a term of 19½ to 20 years in state prison for those offenses. As his release from incarceration neared, Suffolk prosecutors petitioned to have Mr. Vega civilly committed under the state’s SDP statute. A jury found him sexually dangerous in 2008 and he remains civilly committed to this date.
Despite the 2011 CODIS hit, Suffolk prosecutors at the time did not believe that they had sufficient evidence to meet their burden of proving Mr. Vega’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The investigation continued, but the case remained unsolved.
After taking the oath of office on January 2, 2019, District Attorney Rollins fulfilled a campaign promise to redirect her office’s limited resources away from several low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors so she could focus the office’s attention on critical matters, like unsolved homicides. District Attorney Rollins created a program called PUSH (Project for Unsolved Suffolk Homicides). With PUSH, DA Rollins invested additional resources and dedicated staff time to the review of the 1300 unsolved homicide cases from across Suffolk County dating back to the 1960s. The investigation into Ms. Chamberlain’s murder was renewed and expedited under the Rollins administration.
The re-examination into Ms. Chamberlain’s homicide was successful in collecting additional evidence necessary to present the case to a Suffolk County grand jury. That evidence included witness testimony linking Mr. Vega to the Fargo Building, where he had done work as a flooring subcontractor. The grand jury returned an indictment August 30, 2021, charging Mr. Vega with the murder of Ms. Chamberlain.
“Criminal investigations, especially homicides, are uniquely challenging. The passage of time only creates greater difficulty for investigators and prosecutors but the urgency to hold violent offenders and murderers accountable never diminishes. Ever. And when you allocate resources, you get results. Our commitment to these cases and the families of individuals whose lives were violently stolen does not fade with time,” District Attorney Rollins said. “Ms. Chamberlain’s family has been waiting 33 years for answers. We were finally able to offer those answers. Because of excellent police and the diligence of our exceptional PUSH team, we have now indicted three separate murderers, for homicdes occurring twenty-six (26), thirty-three (33), and forty-one (41) years ago. And there will be more because we will never stop looking for people who commit murder. Ever.
“Ms. Chamberlain’s family and loved ones never stopped loving and missing her. This arraignment is another step toward getting her family the accountability and answers they deserve. This will be a painful and long process, but my office will be with the Chamberlain family every step of the way.”
Mr. Vega is now the third individual indicted and charged in connection with a significantly older unsolved murder since District Attorney Rollins took office. Suffolk prosecutors under DA Rollins and her PUSH initiative have previously secured murder indictments against William Sanchezin the fatal 1995 shooting of Jorge Medina and against Steven Fike in the 1980 rape and murder of Wendy Dansereau. DA Rollins had Mr. Sanchez extradited from the Dominican Republic with the help of the Department of Justice and other law enforcement partners. These three indicted cases are over 20, 30 and 40 years old. And there are more to come. Mr. Fike is incarcerated in Alabama – on a separate rape and murder that occurred in 1982 – and is expected to be returned to Massachusetts in 2022 to be held responsible for the rape and murder of Ms. Dansereau. “Ms. Vega murdered Ms. Chamberlain a year after he was released on bail for raping an elderly woman in Revere. Mr. Fike both raped and killed a different woman two years after he raped and killed Ms. Dansereau. These men are predators and I will do everything in my power to keep them behind bars so they can cause no further hurt, harm, or destruction.”
Through PUSH, District Attorney Rollins enlisted staff from all disciplines within her office to conduct internal, administrative reviews of the Office’s over 1300 unsolved homicide cases. This project assigns both legal and non-legal staff, including administrative assistants, paralegals, executive staff, victim witness advocates and civilian investigators, to: conduct a preliminary administrative review of the case file; uniformly inventory each file; summarize its content and evidence; identify sources and leads; and conduct an internet search regarding the homicide to capture any articles or other potentially useful information. Next, the PUSH Assessment Committee, which includes several seasoned homicide prosecutors, examines the findings of each administrative review to determine if the investigative process continues by either: assigning legal staff within the office to continue the investigation; or making recommendations to the Boston Police Department or Massachusetts State Police Homicide Units.
In addition to the administrative review process that placed fresh eyes on seven decades of unsolved homicide cases, the realignment of the office’s priorities under District Attorney Rollins’ leadership increased resources and dedicated staff to prioritizing PUSH and its vitally important work. “We will never stop searching for someone that has taken a life. We are relentless because the victims and survivors deserve it.”
Assistant District Attorney John Verner of District Attorney Rollins’ Homicide Unit led the grand jury proceedings resulting in the indictment against Mr. Vega. Jillian Rose is the assigned victim witness advocate. Det Kevin Pumphret, Sgt. Michael Devane, Sgt. William Doogan, and Det. Jamie Sheehan are the exceptional police investigators in the case. Mr. Vega is represented by attorney Timothy Bradle. He returns to court on November 30, 2021.
All charged individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office serves the communities of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Mass. The office handles some 20,000 cases a year. More than 160 attorneys in the office practice in nine district and municipal courts, Suffolk Superior Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court, and the Boston Juvenile Courts. The office employs some 300 people and offers a wide range of services and programs to serve anyone who comes in contact with the criminal justice system. This office is committed to educating the public about the services we provide, our commitment to crime prevention, and our dedication to keeping the residents of Suffolk County safe.