Providence murder suspect held, accused of violating prior drug offense


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Joel Francisco, accused of murdering a man inside a Providence hookah lounge last month, was ordered held by the U.S. Marshals Service Thursday on an unrelated prior federal drug case.

Francisco had been released from a life sentence in prison on the possession with intent to distribute charge in February, thanks to the federal First Step Act that passed in 2018.

He is now accused of violating the terms of that release by allegedly murdering Troy Pine in Providence on Oct. 2.

Francisco is also accused of violating his release after he was charged in July with attempted breaking and entering in Providence, and by testing positive for drugs on five occasions.

“I find the defendant presents a risk of flight and danger to the community and I order he remain detained,” Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond said in Providence federal court, where Francisco appeared wearing a grey t-shirt, sweatpants and glasses.

Francisco will have a hearing on the alleged violations of his released on Dec. 10. He could be sentenced to up five years in prison for the violation, Almond said, plus supervised released for up to life.

Federal marshals brought Francisco back to Rhode Island on Tuesday after being captured in Texas, following a nationwide manhunt. Police said he fled Providence after stabbing Pine to death inside the Nara Hookah Lounge on Federal Hill.

A date has not yet been set for Francisco to be arraigned on the Providence murder charge.

Three of Troy Pine’s family members, including nephew Jay Chattelle, attended his court hearing Thursday. He questioned how Francisco could have been free despite the violations before the murder.

“He did a lot of things since he’s been home,” Chattelle said. “It’s kind of confusing that he was able to mess up so many times and be still home, and not to be so closely supervised.”

The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office said the federal probation office was notified by Providence Police of Francisco’s attempted breaking and entering charge, which happened prior to the alleged murder.

John Marshall, the chief probation officer for U.S. District Court in Providence, declined to comment.

Chattelle said he doesn’t fault the First Step Act, which allowed Francisco to be released.

“It’s unfortunate that he didn’t do the right thing when he was home,” Chattelle said. “He got a second chance at life to do the right thing.”

Steph Machado ( covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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