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A man in Massachusetts has pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of a NYC woman who never returned from a jog near her mother’s home.
Angelo Colon-Ortiz, 36, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the 2016 murder of Vanessa Marcotte, 27, according to the Worcester District Attorney’s Office. For his crimes, Colon-Ortiz was sentenced to life for second-degree murder, plus 20 years to 20 years plus one day for unarmed robbery, both terms to be served back to back.
Between both convictions, it will be 45 years before Colon-Ortiz is eligible for parole. As part of the disposition, he also forfeits his right to appeal his convictions down the line.
The family of Marcotte agreed to the deal, which officials say will spare loved ones from having to listen to the disturbing details of Marcotte's murder during the course of a trial.
“We are thankful and gratified the legal process has accomplished what we always wished for, that this man will now be in a place where he can’t hurt anyone else like the way he hurt Vanessa,” the family said in a prepared statement published by the district attorney’s office.
Vanessa Marcotte vanished on the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2016, and was reported missing when she failed to return from a jog. The New York City Google employee was visiting her mother in Princeton — about 65 miles west of Boston.
Later that evening, dogs led investigators to Marcotte’s partially clothed and burned remains, which were located in a wooded area about a mile from her mother’s home. According to court documents cited by the Boston Globe, whomever killed Marcotte crushed her throat and broke her nose.
It was also determined Marcotte was sexually assaulted.
The District Attorney’s office said a break in the case came when a trooper with the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit spotted a dark-colored SUV in Worcester — about 15 miles south of Princeton. The driver matched the description of the suspect.
Following up with the suspect’s license plate number, investigators showed up at Colon-Ortiz’s home with a search warrant in March 2017 to collect his DNA. The sample matched the suspect’s DNA found underneath Marcotte’s fingernails, according to investigators.
Defense attorneys would later say there was a language barrier between Puerto Rico-born Colon-Ortiz and investigators in a failed attempt to have the DNA evidence suppressed in court.
A grand jury indicted Colon-Ortiz in June 2017, and he initially pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated assault and battery, and assault with attempt to rape.
On Wednesday, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early thanked multiple law enforcement agencies for their diligent work.
“The completion of this case is the result of the tireless and committed work of the Massachusetts State Police, Princeton Police, and Assistant District Attorneys who were involved in the investigation and prosecution of Vanessa’s killer,” Early stated. “We know nothing can bring Vanessa back, but we know, thorough the meticulous work of the prosecutors and investigators involved, justice will be served, and the plea allows Vanessa’s family to move on from this tragedy.”
Marcotte’s family said in their statement that they hope to honor Marcotte by continuing to educate and protect women through the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation, a group created in 2017 that offers self-defense workshops and webinars on violence prevention and safety for runners.
Foundation co-founders Caroline Tocci and Ashley McNiff released a brief statement through the District attorney’s office.
“Every 68 seconds, a person is assaulted in the United States, and one in 10 girls have experienced harassment,” stated Tocci and McNiff. “Vanessa would have wanted us to take action. She’d be proud of what we’re accomplishing in her honor to make the world a safer place.”
Early went on to thank Senior First Assistant Jeffrey Travers and Assistant District Attorneys Terry McLaughlin and Jane Sullivan for their work in the case. He also thanked Victim Witness Advocate Maria Deyette for working with the Marcottes, including Vanessa Marcotte’s father, John Marcotte, who passed away on Oct. 16.
In lieu of flowers, it was asked that donations be made to the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation in her father’s honor.
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