PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Pawtucket man accused of running over and killing a Woonsocket woman in 2020 was sentenced Monday to life in prison.
James Grilli pleaded no contest to charges of second-degree murder and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. He received a life sentence with the possibility of parole for the murder, plus five years for leaving the scene.
According to the prosecution, Grilli and 40-year-old Erika Belcourt were arguing at the Walnut Hill Apartments when Belcourt asked Grilli to leave and remove his belongings. Belcourt began putting Grilli’s belongings outside the home and locked the door behind her.
Grilli then kicked her door, prompting Belcourt to call police. Prosecutors said Grilli tried to leave, but Belcourt stood in front of his car.
Grilli revved his engine three times and told Belcourt to move out of the way. When she didn’t step aside, Grilli ran her over and drove off, according to the prosecution.
Police found Belcourt in the parking lot suffering from serious injuries. She later died at Rhode Island Hospital.
Grilli was initially charged with first-degree murder and breaking and entering. As part of a plea deal, he agree to plead no contest to second-degree murder and the prosecution moved to dismiss the breaking and entering charge.
At the time of the hit-and-run, Grilli was out on bail for two other open cases against him out of Pawtucket.
Grilli was emotional in court while the prosecutor read the facts of the case, and he later apologized in a statement.
“I regret the impact and devastation I caused to Erika and her family,” Grilli said. “The remorse I feel will forever travel with me.”
Belcourt’s niece spoke in court, pleading the judge to sentence Grilli to life in prison.
“I would be satisfied with him getting life because I feel that’s what he truly deserves,” the niece said.
According to Belcourt’s niece, the victim had just graduated nursing school and started working at a dialysis center when she died.
“Erika was loved by so many people. All she did was want to help people,” the niece said.
Belcourt’s niece said the victim was the glue of the family and her death broke them.
“I just almost wish that she wasn’t such a caring person who really wanted to help because I feel she wouldn’t have been in that predicament,” the niece added.