For traffic Officer Abraham Matos-Wild, the events of the evening of June 10, 2009, will forever scar his memory; a horrific car crash that killed four people — a young mother and three children whose lives were snuffed out — allegedly by a young criminal named Donta Craddock.
Craddock, 21, along with his co-defendant Ivan Rodriguez, 23, are on trial for the murders of LaToya Smith, 22, her daughter, Remedy Smith, who was just shy of her first birthday, Remedy’s cousin, Aaliyah Griffin, 6, and a friend and neighbor, Gina Marie Rosario, 7. The two have been charged with second degree murder and related offenses. The defense attorneys for the defendants, Michael Farrell and Rania Maria Major-Trunfio, have argued that their clients are not guilty. Rodriguez was not present at the scene of the fatal crash — he had gone in another direction with an allegedly stolen motorcycle. Farrell said his client was worried about his lengthy criminal history.
After allegedly jacking a Yamaha motorcycle on Rising Sun Avenue near Somerville, Craddock drove in one direction, and Rodriguez, on the motorcycle, drove in the opposite direction. During his getaway, Craddock allegedly lost control of the Pontiac, the car jumped the curb and struck the victims, wedging in between a tree and a house.
Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy told the court that when the defendants stole the motorcycle they set in motion a series of events that ended with four deaths. They committed a felony and in commission of that felony, killed four people.
Matos-Wild, an officer with 21 years on the force — seven of them with the Traffic Division — was one of the first responders to the crash, and on day two of the trial testified as to what he saw on the evening of June 10, 2009. The courtroom was packed with family members of the victims who sat in stony silence as Matos-Wild related the events of that fateful day.
When asked by Conroy to relate what transpired that evening, Matos-Wild lowered his head and remained silent for several minutes, collecting himself emotionally before testifying and wiping tears from his face.
“I was on patrol on the Boulevard, doing the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. tour. A black BMW was hit by another car and I was speaking with the complainant,” Matos-Wild said. “A black compact car with a young Hispanic male and female inside pulled up. The female said they had just witnessed what appeared to be a carjacking by the occupants of a silver four door car. She said one of the suspects had a gun.”
Matos-Wild said he spotted the car, a silver Pontiac, and began following two car lengths behind, but he hadn’t hit his siren or activated his lights. When he did activate his lights to perform a traffic stop, the driver of the Pontiac took off.
“He took off before I had a chance to order him to shut down his vehicle,” Matos-Wild said. “The driver turned left onto Third Street, half the car was on the sidewalk, the other half on the street. The driver of the car went through a red light.”
“Did you have a chance to get a good look at the driver?” Conroy asked.
“Yes, he’s sitting right over there,” Matos-Wild said, pointing in the direction of Craddock. The officer said he lost sight of the Pontiac and started heading down Third Street when he saw a cloud of dust.
“It was a cloud of dust, the remnants of a car accident,” Matos-Wild said, wiping back tears. “As I got closer people started waving at me, yelling and screaming. Everywhere people were hollering. I could see the suspect on the ground. I went over to him and I saw the handle of a gun, sticking out of his right front pocket. He was on the ground lying face up. I retrieved the gun and proceeded to secure the crime scene. I proceeded to put the cuffs on him and as I did, a young lady, later identified as the mother of one of the victims, started hitting him, out of anger I guess. I looked up and parallel to him, I saw the young mother with the mangled little body of her daughter. To the right of the vehicle, I saw the limb of a child. At that point I lost it.”
After a few minutes, Matos-Wild proceeded to describe what he saw; the twisted wreckage of the car the defendant was driving, the limbs of the victims protruding from the wreckage and a community in turmoil. He continued calling for rescue units and backup, which arrived quickly.
“The whole neighborhood was screaming that there were children trapped beneath the car.”
Craddock was left partially paralyzed. If he and Rodriguez are found guilty of second degree murder they will receive life sentences without parole.