The body of a 51-year-old woman was found at 11:45 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 17, on the west side of the parking garage adjacent to Post Road, near the Rhode Island T.F. Green International …
The body of a 51-year-old woman was found at 11:45 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 17, on the west side of the parking garage adjacent to Post Road, near the Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport, according to Warwick Police Chief Colonel Bradford Connor.
“The body appears to have been there for approximately 2 to 3 days,” Connor said via email Wednesday morning. “While there were no obvious signs of trauma, detectives and the Medical Examiner will continue to investigate to determine the cause of death. Positive identification has been made, however will not be released until proper notification has been made to next of kin.”
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice District of Rhode Island announced the conviction of a Warwick man on drug trafficking and firearm charges in federal court.
“Jose Manuel Rosario-Mella, a.k.a. Luis Cortes, 55, of Warwick, was arrested in August 2020 by Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force agents following a month-long investigation into his drug trafficking activities, pleaded guilty in federal court (Jan. 10) to possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm,” U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced in a press release.
Rosario-Mella’s guilty plea was entered as his federal jury trial was scheduled to begin, according to Cunha’s office.
On Aug. 12, 2022, DEA agents and Warwick Police detectives executed a court-authorized search of Rosario-Mella’s residence and seized a 1,002-gram brick of heroin from a closet shelf; a loaded 9mm Glock pistol and ammunition in a compartment in the master bedroom; $337,600 in cash; three kilogram presses used to compress heroin into bricks for transportation and sale; and assorted items used in the preparation and distribution of heroin, according to the press release.
“Present in the residence at the time of the search was the defendant’s girlfriend and her two minor daughters,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Rosario-Mella is scheduled to be sentenced on April 13, 2023. The defendant’s sentence will be determined by a federal district judge after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul F. Daly Jr. and Zechariah Chafee prosecuted the case. The Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force is comprised of personnel from the DEA, Rhode Island State Police and the Central Falls, East Providence, Cranston, Coventry, Newport, North Kingstown, Pawtucket, Providence, South Kingstown, Warwick, West Warwick, Woonsocket and Amtrak police departments.
Additionally, Cunha thanked the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for their assistance in the investigation.
Around 12:23 a.m., Dec. 28, Warwick Police Officer Connor R. Bemis was driving south on Jefferson Boulevard near Chestnut Street, following a blue Honda Pilot, when he allegedly observed the car traveling around 10 miles per hour “at an extremely low rate of speed with no vehicles in front of it.”
“I observed the vehicle then swerve into the right hand lane with both passenger’s side tires several times while continuing to travel at an extremely low rate of speed in the left hand lane,” Bemis wrote.
Bemis initiated a traffic stop. He identified the driver as Donna H. Letellier-Bennett, 44, homeless, with a last known address in Cranston.
“At this time, I observed a female passenger and I observed two males with their hoods on moving items around franticly in the very rear portion of the vehicle,” Bemis wrote. “I observed in plain view while speaking with Donna white powdery residue (suspected narcotics) to be all over the back seat of the vehicle, and I observed several suspected meth pipes to be in plain view on the floorboard on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.”
Bemis requested more officers on the scene.
One occupant in the car was identified as Christopher A. Hughes Duarte, 22, of 67 West Park Place, Woonsocket. Police checked his record via mug shots and discovered he was wanted “on two active bench warrants,” Bemis wrote.
He was placed in hand restraints, searched and placed in the rear of a police cruiser.
Another passenger, Laura L. Cartwright, 27, homeless, last known address in Providence, was identified, and after confirming her social security number, police discovered “she had multiple active bench warrants.”
She was also cuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser.
With Hughes Duarte and Cartwright in custody, Bemis spoke to the driver.
He asked Letellier-Bennett if there was anything illegal in the vehicle. She allegedly answered, “yes, I think so,” but “would not specify further,” according to the arrest report.
Bemis read all “involved parties their constitutional rights.”
He then conducted a “probable cause” search of the vehicle, finding a black bag on the passenger’s side floor.
“Inside the black bag was a large narcotics kit, in which I observed a large glassine plastic baggie, containing a crystal white rock like substance,” Bemis wrote. He suspected the substance was likely methamphetamine. In a clear vial, Bemis found a brown substance, suspected to be heroin. Letellier-Bennett allegedly told Bemis that the items were “her drugs.”
She was arrested, searched and placed in the rear of a cruiser. Bemis continued to search the car and allegedly “located a large amount of narcotics paraphernalia, including empty glassine baggies, and suspected crack pipes and methamphetamine pipes, all of which contained suspected narcotic residue,” according to the arrest report.
In the rear seat, driver’s side, Bemis allegedly located a large baggie containing a white powdery substance (suspected cocaine). The bag was located where a fourth occupant, Brandon Wisehart, 30, of 203 Norwood Ave., Cranston, was sitting at the time of the traffic stop, according to police.
“Due to the proximity of the suspected cocaine being where Wisehart had been sitting inside the vehicle, it was (determined) he would be charged with the suspected cocaine at this time,” Bemis wrote.
Wisehart was handcuffed, searched and placed in another cruiser.
The car was towed from the scene.
Letellier-Bennett told another officer on the scene that “she had a bag of suspected crack cocaine in her right shoe,” Bemis wrote. The bag was located and seized.
The suspected drugs allegedly found in Letellier-Bennett’s possession tested positive for methamphetamines (8.1 grams), heroin (4.2 grams) and cocaine 0.4 grams, according to the arrest report.
The suspected cocaine found in the back seat tested positive, and weighed 4.2 grams, according to police.
Letellier-Bennett was charged with three counts of Possession of Schedule I-V Controlled Substance (less than 10 grams). Wisehart was also charged with a count of Possession of Schedule I-V Controlled Substance (less than 10 grams).
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