Sexual assault eyed in 7-year-old’s murder

Ed Baker

The district attorney’s office has said evidence of a possible sexual assault was found on the bedding of a 7-year-old girl who was found murdered in Weymouth on Sunday morning.

She was taken from her grandmother’s home on Randall Avenue.

A 20-year-old Weymouth man is being held without bail for allegedly murdering his seven-year-old first cousin, Joanna Mullin, a Pingree School student who would have entered the first grade next month.

“There was significant trauma to her head, face, and neck area,” Norfolk County District Attorney spokesman Michael Connolly told the News hours after Bois, a 2004 Weymouth High School graduate, was ordered to face a competency evaluation. “There was significant trauma to the vaginal area. There was bedding found in the house that had blood on it and what is believed to be seminal fluid.”

Ryan Bois, 20, pleaded innocent at Quincy District Court on Monday to first-degree murder, possession of heroin, and various motor vehicle charges in connection with Joanna’s death.

He is being held without bail at Bridgewater State Hospital for mental evaluation while awaiting an Aug. 14status hearing.

Police did not charge Bois with sexual assault or rape during his arraignment.

As he was led into his court hearing, shackled and clad in a hospital nightgown, Bois spat at a Patriot Ledger reporter, who was taken to South Shore Hospital because Bois reportedly suffers from hepatitis.

Bois, a reputed drug addict, was arrested by Weymouth and Quincy police on Monday at 1:30 a.m. after he tried to flee in a white SUV he allegedly stole from Joanna’s grandmother, Arlene White.

Police allege that Bois struck a Braintree Best taxicab at the corner of Quincy Avenue and East Howard Street near the former General Dynamics Shipyard while fleeing.

“The kid tried to take a turn on East Howard, and he hit a cab,” said Stacey Steadman, a dispatcher for Braintree Best Taxi. “I went to the scene when I learned that the cab was hit.”

The driver of the Braintree Best car did not suffer injury, but the incident was horrifying for Steadman when she and a co-worker saw an officer remove a child’s body, wrapped in a blanket, from the SUV.

“We stood around there for 15 minutes,” Steadman said. “When they (the police) opened the back of the SUV, they realized there was a body in it. It appears she was wrapped in a white blanket. An officer did not wait for the stretcher. He cradled the girl and put her in the back of the ambulance. I could not see his face, but I could tell he was quite upset. I then saw another officer walk behind him and put his hand on his shoulder to console him.”

Steadman said her eyes began watering while she viewed the scene.

“We almost started crying right there when we realized it was a little girl,” she said. “We just said, ‘Why?’ We wondered if she had slammed into the back of the seat during the crash.”

Bois was arrested while trying to climb a rocky embankment in a nearby construction yard. He reportedly brandished a knife at officers and kept running until a police dog bit him in the arm.

“He was trying to scale the rocky ledge,” Connolly said. “At that point, an officer with a canine yelled for him to stop three times, and when he didn’t,the officer sent the dog after him.”

Bois was taken to South Shore Medical Center for treatment of the dog bite injuries he received.

Bois reportedly asked police to kill him right before they found Joanna’s bruised and battered body in the back seat of a stolen SUV he’d just crashed, a police source told the Boston Herald.

“Just kill me, just kill me. It’s over, it’s over,” he bellowed.

“The evidence is clear that (there) was trauma, and it’s clear that it’s a homicide,” Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating said.

 Police say Bois took the child from her 64-year-old grandmother’s home where she was sleeping overnight.

Investigators found an aluminum ladder perched against the side of the house, leading to an open window on the second story, but Connolly said that Bois allegedly gained entry to the house from the roof of the SUV.

“Assistant District Attorney Robert Nelson said the suspect got on top of the roof of the SUV and gained entry through a window,” Connolly said. “He cut through a window screen and climbed through.”

Details of Joanna’s death have horrified neighbors in the quiet neighborhood.

“We are devastated. I just can’t believe it. The crime hits close to home. Many of us have kids. It is nerve racking. I never thought anything like this could happen around here,” said Linda Raneri, neighbor of the victim’s grandmother.

“It is a very quiet street. Everybody keeps to themselves. Arlene is a very nice person. She keeps to herself,” Raneri said.

In regard to the suspect, Raneri added, “All I know is that his family tried to help him, but they had no luck with him and he was out of control.”

Bois’s mother Maureen Tofani, 42, of Framingham said that her son struggled with heroin addiction.

“I’m devastated, completely devastated,” Tofani told the Herald.

She said her sister, Heather Mullin, took Bois in when she could no longer deal with him, and he was recently released from a rehab unit to treat his heroin habit.

“I could see him hurting himself, but not (the Mullins’) kids,” Tofani said. “He was really close to those kids.”

A family member has asked that the family be left alone to grieve in private.

The specific cause of death was not clear.

Tofani last spoke with her son on Saturday, but said nothing in their conversation or his demeanor prepared her for the tragedy.

“He was in a good mood. He was bubbly,” she said. “He called me every day. I left him with the same message I always leave him with: ‘Ryan, just stay away from drugs, stay away from drinking, and get a job.’

“You can only do so much for them, but the drugs and the drinking just ruined him,” she said. “He’d say, ‘I’m a loser,’ but he chose to be a punk.”

   Neighbor Dan Cuerves said that White was asleep on her sun porch at the time Bois is suspected of breaking in. He said it was White’s Ford Explorer Bois allegedly used as his getaway car.

Joanna was the oldest child of plumber Jerome and Heather Mullin of Weymouth. She also leaves two brothers, aged 1 and 4.

Bois was arrested last September on charges of robbing a convenience store while claiming he had a gun. The disposition of that case was unclear

In 2005, he was charged with threatening to kill a man he robbed of $70 and cigarettes, charges that were later dismissed.

According to published reports, the grandmother was unaware her granddaughter was missing until she was notified by police.

The girl’s parents live on Hawthorne Street in Weymouth.

According to published reports, Joanna was an active and happy girl who rode her bike and played basketball.

Keating held a Sunday morning press conference at the Weymouth police station.

“The evidence we have now leads us to conclude that the person knew of the victim,” Keating was quoted as saying at that time. “It wasn’t just a case where the suspect, or whoever perpetrated this . . . had gone to any random house.”

Material from a Boston Herald story by Laurel J. Sweet, Jessica Van Sack, and Mike Underwood was used in this story.