WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A man accused of attacking and killing a jogger in Warwick nearly a decade ago has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Michael Soares, 37, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2013 killing of 66-year-old John “Jack” Fay.
The judge announced his verdict Friday afternoon, three weeks after hearing closing arguments in the case. It was a bench trial, meaning the decision was up to the judge, rather than a jury.
In a nearly hour-long explanation of his verdict, the judge said there is no dispute Soares was suffering from mental illness, but the defense failed to prove there was a correlation between that and the crime.
Fay, a retired postal worker and Vietnam veteran, had gone out for a jog in Warwick City Park when he was stabbed and beaten to death. His body was found stuffed in a barrel the following day, and the murder weapons—a knife and a mini sledgehammer—were located nearby.
The killing went unsolved for years until DNA evidence linked Soares to the crime. He was arrested in February 2019.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Soares bought a knife and a hammer prior to the attack, then attempted to fly to Pakistan two days later. That, the judge said, undermined his insanity plea, along with differing testimony from two doctors during the trial.
The verdict was seen as a victory for Fay’s family.
“Ultimately, my dad’s life mattered,” Meghan Fay said. “That he did get justice for this and the way that this guy was trying to do the case … he was trying to present himself as the victim, and my dad has always been the victim … and I do feel that justice was served today.”
The prosecution and defense agreed there was evidence that Soares committed the murder, but the trial was centered around whether he could be held accountable due to his mental state at the time.
Soares allegedly admitted to attacking the victim, but claimed he thought he was in danger and did it “to save himself.”
“[He was] really led by thoughts that someone was going to kill him and that people could read his mind,” psychiatrist Dr. Patricia Recupero testified.
The suspect’s parents, Lynn and Michael Soares Sr., were in court Friday. They expressed disappointment with the verdict, saying they fear prison time won’t help their son’s mental health.
“He’s still not going to get the help he deserves, and that’s typical of the state of Rhode Island,” Lynn said.
“Now he’s going to be a product of the state and he’s going to be in that loop,” Soares Sr. added.
The judge said the court will release the full written decision next week.
Soares is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3. His defense attorney said he plans to file an appeal for a new trial at that time.