NORTHAMPTON — As both a police investigation and a grand jury investigation have progressed into the death of a city man whose body was found burning in Hatfield two months ago, “at least three people” considered to be witnesses in the case have left Massachusetts, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Cruz, whose smoldering body was discovered by police on March 10, was shot to death before being set on fire. His death was ruled a homicide by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Two Northampton women, Alondra Gil and Mercedes Diaz-Wright, both 22, were charged in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday with lying to authorities connected to both investigations, and investigators have expressed fears that both women might — like the others — attempt to leave town.
Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl said at Gil’s arraignment that at least one of the witnesses who left Massachusetts shortly after Cruz’s death are “affiliated” with Gil.
The identities of the witnesses and their connections to the case were not made clear.
Gil allegedly lied to investigators about where she was on the night Cruz died, as well as about the whereabouts of other people “considered to be suspects in the homicide of Mr. Cruz,” court documents state.
Suhl did make it evident that Gil in particular might make an attempt to leave the state — a factor that subsequently contributed to bail negotiations between Suhl and Gil’s defense attorney, Rachel Weber, of Northampton.
Gil and Diaz-Wright are charged with lying to investigators about their whereabouts and the whereabouts of others who are believed to be connected to the case on the night that Cruz died.
Gil is facing a charge of perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury on April 2.
Diaz-Wright, meanwhile, faces a charge of lying to a police officer. Court documents allege she lied to two Massachusetts State Police detectives during an interview at the courthouse on the same day that Gil allegedly lied to the grand jury.
Diaz-Wright is being represented by Northampton attorney Alfred Chamberland.
Both women were arrested by Massachusetts State Police and Northampton police Wednesday.
One of the witnesses who left the state is “significantly affiliated with Ms. Gil,” and is alleged to have been with Gil on the night of the homicide, Suhl said. That person, who was not identified, relocated to North Carolina after Cruz’s death, Suhl said.
“We certainly have that concern — that Ms. Gil has that connection to someone also involved in this case,” Suhl said.
Suhl also expressed concerns about Gil supposedly having family connections in Florida, and said she might attempt to relocate there.
Suhl said that Gil’s boyfriend, who is also considered to be “connected to the investigation,” was recently arrested for drug distribution and firearms trafficking in Holyoke.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that other witnesses in this case have left the state,” Weber said. “Ms. Gil is responsible for Ms. Gil, and what other witnesses have taken it upon themselves to do cannot be attributed to Ms. Gil.”
Gil’s bail was ultimately set at $3,500 cash, and a pretrial hearing was set for June 23.
The bail for Diaz-Wright was set at $10,000 without prejudice. She will be back in court next Wednesday for a bail hearing.
Both women were being held at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee.