Conch shell murder suspect pleads ‘not guilty’ in Fall River court

Jan 21, 2022

FALL RIVER — David Reed, who is accused of of killing his half-sister with a conch shell in 2001, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and armed robbery on Friday, Jan. 21.

Reed agreed to be held without bail until trial and to have no contact with any witnesses involved in the case at the arraignment which was held in the Fall River division of the Bristol County Superior Court.

“I’m very pleased that the defendant has now been formally arraigned,” said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III. “It was a brutal murder that certainly left the family with a number of questions about the culprit. I hope [Reed being formally indicted] gives them some sense of peace.”

Reed, a former Dartmouth resident, was charged after the District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit reexamined evidence of the 2001 murder.

Rose Marie Moniz was found dead at her home on Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford on March 23, 2001. It was determined that she had been bludgeoned to death with a fireplace poker, a conch shell and a cast iron kettle. There was no sign of forced entry to the home.

The case went cold early in the investigation, according to the DA’s office, and remained that way until the Cold Case Unit picked it up in 2019 as one of more than 70 cold case murders dating back to the 1970s.

After reviewing the evidence of the case, the investigators were able to recover DNA samples from inside the opening of the conch shell, where they believed the murderer must have placed his fingers to grip the shell strongly enough to strike the victim with it.

The DNA profile was found to be a match for Reed, the victim’s half brother, which was confirmed by other samples taken from under the victim’s fingernails.

State Police first sought to contact Reed about the findings in August 2020. But shortly after being interviewed by an officer, Reed fled the state.

Reed was initially located in Alabama, where law enforcement came to his workplace to question him, but later traveled to California, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island in an attempt to elude authorities, according to the DA’s office.

He was finally captured in September 2021 where he was found sleeping at the Providence Rescue Mission Shelter in Rhode Island.

At the time, he had been charged with armed assault with intent to murder and armed robbery in connection to a separate incident — the 2003 beating and robbery of Maribel Martinez-Alegria in New Bedford.

That case was also revived by the Cold Case Unit using newfound DNA evidence.

In the 2003 case, Reed is accused of taking Alegria to a secluded area in his truck where he bludgeoned her over the head with a tire iron and stole her pocketbook. He then pushed her out of the truck and left her bleeding and alone in the dark alley, the DA’s office said.

The assault took place on June 10, 2003.

Around a month later, Alegria saw her attacker circling the neighborhood in his truck. Immediately, she told her family members and tried to call the police.

When her nephew saw the truck pass in front of the house again, several of the family members rushed to their minivan to follow it. Luckily, Reed was passing the house a third time as they reached their vehicle, making it easy for them to follow him.

Alegria's family were able to signal to a police officer as they passed New Bedford High School, still following Reed’s truck in their van. The officer called for backup.

Soon the suspect came upon a police cruiser traveling the opposite direction with its lights and sirens on. As the officer moved to block the truck, Reed rammed him head-on — injuring the officer — and tried to push the cruiser out of the way.

Despite the escape attempts, Reed was apprehended and identified by Alegria as her attacker.

Reed was charged for the robbery and assault of Alegria and for ramming the police cruiser. He was released on bail with his trial scheduled for June 10, 2004.

But Reed never appeared in court as he had already fled the state. He remained on the run for almost 10 years, living in Florida, Hawaii and Alabama, according to the DA’s office.

Reed was finally captured and returned to Massachusetts to face trial on May 7, 2015. But the assault and robbery charges had to be dropped because Alegria — the victim and key witness — died six months earlier.

Reed still faced charges for ramming the police cruiser and felony bail jumping, though, and in 2016, he was sentenced to three-and-a-half to four years in state prison.

After his conviction, Reed had to submit a sample of his DNA to the state database, which ultimately led to his indictment on murder charges this year.

Investigators have recently been able to obtain further evidence connected to the 2003 violent assault and robbery of Alegria, which resulted in Reed’s renewed indictment connected to that incident.

His case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney William McCauley — who heads the Cold Case Unit — and Assistant District Attorney Caleb Weiner.

Reed will next appear in court on March 7 for a pre-trial conference and on July 18 for a pre-trial hearing.