A Massachusetts teen was ordered held without bail in connection to what prosecutors called the “horrific, horrific death” of a classmate who was found decapitated alongside a river last week.
Mathew Borges, 15, appeared in Lawrence District Court amid “extremely heavy police presence” to face a first-degree murder rap over the death of 16-year-old Lee Manuel Vilora-Paulino, the Eagle-Tribune reported. Borges pleaded not guilty.
Borges was arrested without incident on Saturday, two days after Vilora-Paulino’s decapitated body was discovered along the banks of the Merrimack River.
Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokesperson for the Essex District Attorney’s Office, said investigators “just don’t know” how the teens from Lawrence High School knew each other or a motive for the gruesome killing.
“We’re not aware of what type of relationship they had,” Monahan told The Post. “We know that they both attended the same school.”
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett told reporters during a news conference on Saturday that Viloria-Paulino’s body was so badly mutilated that an autopsy took 11 hours.
“This was a horrific, horrific murder,” Blodgett told reporters, according to the Boston Globe. “While it shook the community, we were completely and totally resolved to bring this matter to justice.”
Relatives of Viloria-Paulino said Borges had been at the family’s home just a few days before he went missing on Nov. 18. They told the Boston Globe that the Lawrence Police Department insisted the teen had simply run away and declined to search for him after they filed a missing persons report.
A message seeking comment from Lawrence police was not immediately returned early Monday.
A witness, according to police documents filed in Lawrence District Court on Monday, told investigators that Borges recently confided in him.
“Mathew told him he did something bad,” court documents state, according to MassLive.com. “Mathew then told him that he stabbed a kid and cut off his head killing him.
When Mathew said this he was motioning with his hands as if he was stabbing someone and cutting someone’s head off.”
Borges told police he and Viloria-Paulino only walked to a remote section of Lawrence along the Merrimack River to smoke pot on Nov. 18. Borges said he then walked home. Attempts to reach Borges’ attorney Monday were not successful.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said he’s open to the possibility of launching an independent investigation into how police handled the case, he told the Eagle-Tribune.
“This tore the city apart,” Rivera said. “This is not just a murder, two young people’s lives have ended.”
Classmates, meanwhile, told the Boston Globe that Viloria-Paulino “had a really big heart” and would often sing at school, including during class and lunch. He had no disciplinary issues and avoided the wrong crowd, even serving as a “mentor” to some classmates, one teen who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation told the Boston Globe.
Family spokesperson Linette Perez said the teen’s relatives are “devastated” by his death.
“The family is devastated, they’re shattered,” Perez told the Globe on Friday. “They still had hope that it wasn’t Lee.”
A vigil was held Friday outside Lawrence High School, where classmates said Viloria-Paulino was an extremely likable teen who had no issues with anyone.
“The most pure soul you could ever come across,” classmate Kialy Pichardo, 16, told the Globe.
A second vigil for Viloria-Paulino has been scheduled for Tuesday in Lawrence.
“I can’t even begin to understand this senseless murder of young Lee Paulino,” one post read. “May God be with his family and may he rest in peace.”
Borges is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 10.