PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Supreme Court has sided with a Westerly man convicted of sexually assaulting and killing an elderly West Warwick woman in 1990.
The court handed down an opinion Wednesday, vacating David Roscoe’s murder conviction and granting him a new trial.
Roscoe was found guilty of the rape and murder in 2016, one year after his arrest in the cold-case murder. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2017 and is in Maximum Security at the ACI.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Roscoe’s constitutional rights were violated at trial, when a detective testified about statements made by Mouchon’s son and two of her friends shortly after her death.
All three had told police in 1990 that Mouchon had not been in a relationship, discounting the possibility that sperm found in her body during an autopsy could have been from a consensual relationship. But the three witnesses had died by the time the case went to trial, and therefore they could not be cross-examined by the defense.
“Their deaths prior to trial deprived Roscoe of the ability to subject them to cross-examination, yet the trial justice nonetheless admitted testimony that referred to their statements to police in 1990. In our opinion, this was error,” the justices wrote in the opinion.
“I think they’re wrong,” Mouchon’s granddaughter Robin Mouchon Foley told Eyewitness News in a phone interview on Wednesday. “There was nothing said that didn’t give him due process and his right to a fair trial.”
She said the family thought they had closure after the sentencing, and they believe he was rightly convicted.
“I think it’s a technicality, because there was so much evidence and the DNA stands on its own. It placed him there,” Mouchon Foley said.
It was Germaine Mouchon’s grandson, Richard Mouchon, who got the case opened back up in 2015 after he found his grandmother’s death certificate, shocked to see the word “homicide” as the manner of death. His late father had protected him from knowledge of the cold case.
Mouchon went to West Warwick detectives, who reopened the case and had the sperm tested with DNA technology that hadn’t existed in 1990. There was a match: David Roscoe, whose DNA was in the system because he was a convicted child molester.
At trial, Roscoe’s defense team argued there was no proof that the 34-year-old and the 85-year-old did not have consensual sex in 1990. The jury did not buy the story.
“I think it’s weak, and I think it’s outrageous and ridiculous,” Mouchon Foley said. “My grandmother was 85 years old, she was not in any type of relationship, hadn’t been in 40 years.”
The medical examiner said she died of a heart attack brought about by blunt force injuries.
The case will now go back to the Superior Court, where the Attorney General’s office can re-try Roscoe for the crimes.
“We are reviewing the judge’s decision on this,” said Kristy dosReis, a spokesperson for the newly sworn-in Attorney General Peter Neronha. A decision has not been made on whether they will pursue a new trial.
It’s unclear if Roscoe will seek bail in the meantime. His defense attorney, Kara Maguire, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
For the Mouchon family, the thought of sitting through a new trial has reopened a wound they thought was closed.
“My grandmother was amazing, she was strong, smart, hardworking, family-loving woman who was in her apartment on a hot august night and had left the door open because there was no air conditioning, and this deplorable, drug-influenced man just happened in and ended her life,” Mouchon Foley said. “She deserves justice. He doesn’t deserve to just do those things and walk away.”