Photo: Meriden Police Department
NEW HAVEN — A Danbury man who admitted he fatally stabbed his girlfriend in her Meriden apartment pleaded guilty Thursday in state Superior Court in New Haven to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter and will serve 29 years in prison.
But the parents of the victim, 21-year-old Alyssa Guerrero, said after court adjourned that officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, could have prevented her death if they had deported the defendant, Mateus Nascimento-Dacosta, for repeatedly violating a protective order.
The victim’s father, Ciro Guerrero of Brookfield, said ICE representatives had learned of the protective order charges against the defendant and placed a detainer on him because he was in this country illegally.
“Three times he was arrested for violating a protective order,” Guerrero said. “But ICE told Brookfield police, ‘It’s OK to release him, let him go. Tell him to stay out of trouble.’ It was a petty crime in ICE’s eyes.”
But then on May 2, 2018, Alyssa Guerrero was killed. Nascimento-Dacosta fled the scene but drove to the Waterbury Police Department and told them what he had done.
“He said he had stabbed someone in Meriden,” Assistant State’s Attorney Reed Durham told New Haven Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford Thursday. “He provided the details.”
According to the arrest warrant, Nascimento-Dacosta said he stabbed the woman with a steak knife.
Nascimento-Dacosta, 21, originally was charged with murder. But as part of the plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge.
Ciro Guerrero, who watched Nascimento-Dacosta plead guilty Thursday, said afterward, “If he had been deported, our daughter would still be alive.”
A message was left with ICE officials for comment on the case.
The victim’s mother, Jeannie Guerrero, told Clifford the family reluctantly accepted the plea deal, But she said they preferred he be convicted of murder and receive a life sentence.
“They should make an example of people like this,” Jeannie Guerrero said. “They shouldn’t just get a slap on the wrist.”
“If it were up to us,” Ciro Guerrero said after court adjourned, “he would spend the rest of his life in jail.”
Nascimento-Dacosta’s attorney, John Bowdren, acknowledged the defendant is not in America legally. “He is a Brazilian national,” Bowdren said after court adjourned. Bowdren said Nascimento-Dacosta will face a deportation hearing when he is released from prison. He said the man will be eligible for parole in 24 years.
When asked to comment on the sentencing agreement after the court hearing, Bowdren said, “It was really the best we could have expected, given everything he was faced with and the risk of going to trial” on a murder charge.
Clifford scheduled the sentencing hearing for April 23.
Nascimento-Dacosta also pleaded guilty to a second charge of violating a protective order. That order, and the other two, had been designed to protect Guerrero.
“He was harassing her,” Ciro Guerrero said.
He said his daughter had lived with them in Brookfield until she moved out to rent her own apartment in Meriden. “She moved out of our house one month before she died.”
Durham recalled during the court hearing Thursday the events of May 2, 2018. “There was an argument and she started to leave. He grabbed her and carried her back inside. She went into the bedroom. The defendant held her down with one hand and stabbed her in the upper chest. She bled to death.”
Clifford said the agreement calls for Nascimento-Dacosta to receive 20 years for first-degree manslaughter and nine years for violating a protective order. He also will be sentenced to a year in prison for violating probation but this will be made concurrent with the rest of the sentence.
The defendant, who was dressed in gray prison garb, conferred with Bowdren during the hearing to clarify how long he will serve under the agreement. He has been held in lieu of $3 million bail.
According to state judicial records, Nascimento-Dacosta also was convicted and sentenced, in September 2017, on five counts of sixth-degree larceny and three counts of violating probation.