PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A man charged last year in connection with a 30-year-old cold case could soon have those charges dropped, according to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.
A spokesperson for the AG’s office tells Eyewitness News the defense lawyer for Joao Monteiro filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Monteiro, 59, was arrested by Pawtucket police last July in connection with the 1988 death of 10-year-old Christine Cole. The Pawtucket girl went missing after leaving her West Avenue home to pick up groceries. Her body was found nearly two months later on the beach at Conimicut Point Park in Warwick.
Police believe Monteiro was unknown to Cole but said he lived in the apartment above the market where the girl was last seen. DNA testing led investigators to him.
In 2018, Pawtucket Det. Susan Cormier spearheaded a project to print a deck of cards with the faces of cold case victims on each card. She and other detectives hoped the cards would draw interest in the cases and uncover new leads.
Cole is the queen of hearts. Monteiro’s arrest was the first connected to the featured cold cases.
Last July, Monteiro was released after prosecutors withdrew their objection to his bail, saying that based on the evidence in the case, the state “could not reasonably press its request that the defendant be held without bail.” Monteiro then left Rhode Island to move in with family in Massachusetts.
Monteiro has denied any involvement in Cole’s murder.
On Friday, the AG’s office released a statement saying in order to prosecute, the evidence must be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction but, “the evidence in this case, including the DNA evidence, does not at the present time meet this standard.”
“The DNA and other evidence, as it exists at the present time, does not narrow the field of those culpable for the death of Christine Cole to the degree necessary to move forward with a prosecution of the defendant,” the office wrote.
The AG’s office also said it will not bring the case to a grand jury, and other potential suspects have not been ruled out.
“We are very respectful of their decision,” Detective Sgt. Christopher LeFort said. “We are going to continue to work the case and work with the attorney general’s office and hopefully then we can get this case solved.”
A member of the Cole family told Eyewitness News they have no comment at this time.