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Conch Shell Leads To Arrest Of Man Accused Of Half-Sister's Brutal 2001 Murder

David Reed was indicted for bludgeoning his half-sister to death while simultaneously being indicted for the attempted murder of a different woman. 

By Jax Miller

After a brutal murder in Massachusetts went unsolved for 20 years, a conch shell helped authorities lead to the arrest of the woman’s half-brother, according to the District Attorney.

David Reed, 53, was indicted last week for the 2001 murder of Rose Marie Moniz, 41, according to a press release from the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office. Reed is alleged t o have entered Moniz's New Bedford home on March 23, 2001, and bludgeoned her to death using a fireplace poker, a cast-iron kettle, and a conch shell.

There was no sign of forced entry into her home, and money was stolen from her purse.

Although New Bedford police narrowed in on two potential suspects earlier in the investigation, the case eventually went cold.

Now, District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III says David Reed is responsible. Reed was also simultaneously indicted for charges related to the attempted murder and robbery of a local woman named Maribel Martinez-Alegria in 2003.

“I’m pleased to announce the indictments related to the previously unsolved cold case homicide of Rose Marie Moniz,” said Quinn. “She was a mother who was brutally murdered inside the sanctity of her own home. Thanks to the efforts of my Cold Case Unit, along with detectives from our state police unit and New Bedford Police, we were able to bring some sense of relief to the victim’s family, all of whom suffered for the past 20 years from not knowing what happened to Ms. Moniz.”

Moniz’s father found her body in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor after he went to pick her up for a doctor’s appointment, according to the District Attorney. An autopsy report noted significant trauma to the victim’s head, including “skull fractures, gaping lacerations, and other injuries that resulted in bleeding from both ears, broken nasal bones, and a broken cheekbone.”

In 2019, Quinn’s Cold Case Unit began reexamining Moniz’s murder and evidence collected from the scene, including a conch shell used to beat the victim.

“Autopsy photos of the victim’s face showed that the victim had suffered numerous abrasions and contusions which suggested that the spiny exterior of the conch shell made contact with the victim’s face,” said the District Attorney’s Office. “That suggested that the perpetrator would have to put his fingers inside the opening of the conch to hold it firmly as was needed to strike the victim.”

The DNA collected from the conch shell led to the half-brother, whose DNA was already in the system.

In August 2020, investigators attempted to question Reed at his Dartmouth residence, but he fled the state soon after. Law enforcement found him working at a lumberyard in Alabama, but he went on the run once again.

“During the next year, the defendant traveled to California, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island in an apparent attempt to elude authorities,” the press release continued. “He was captured on Sept. 10, 2021, sleeping at the Providence Rescue mission shelter in Rhode Island.”

Reed had also been indicted in Massachusetts on charges of armed assault with intent to murder and armed robbery related to Martinez-Alegria’s 2003 beating. On June 10, 2003, neighbors responded to the sounds of screams after Reed allegedly beat the victim’s head with a tire iron, pushed her out of his truck, and left her for dead. Reed also allegedly stole Martinez-Alegria’s pocketbook.

A month later, Reed stalked the victim’s house, prompting family members to chase him in his vehicle, according to the District Attorney. While in pursuit, Reed allegedly hit a parked car. Martinez-Alegria’s relatives flagged an officer to join the chase, in where Reed reportedly hit the police cruiser head-on and injured the officer. Reed was later arrested and identified by Martinez-Alegria as her attacker.

Reed never appeared in court, and charges related to the beating were dismissed when Martinez-Alegria died in 2015. He was, however, sentenced to three to four years in prison for the police cruiser crash and required to submit his DNA, which helped investigators nab him for his half-sister’s murder.

Fred Cunha, Moniz’s older brother, spoke to NBC affiliate WJAR News 10 about the recent indictment. Though he hadn’t spoken with Reed in years, he remembered him as a pallbearer at his sister’s funeral.

“We had other people that we thought it might be, who actually threatened Rose,” said Cunha. “It turned out that the person carrying her coffin to the grave was the person that killed her.”

David Reed is currently in custody for the 2003 attack, according to the District Attorney’s Office. An arraignment date for charges related Moniz’s murder has yet to be scheduled.

“We will continue to utilize all available resources to review cold cases and seek out new evidence,” said Quinn. “We look forward to prosecuting this case in open court.”

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