Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester
Heard: December 19, 2016.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
September 21, 2011.
pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Bruce R.
Henry, J.; the case was tried before Kathe M. Tuttman, J.,
and a motion for a new trial, filed on March 16, 2015, was
heard by her.
W. O'Brien for the defendant.
A. Sullivan, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, & Gaziano,
defendant, Natalio Felix, appeals from his conviction of
murder in the first degree and the denial of his motion for a
new trial. The defendant was convicted of the murder of his
wife, Janice Santos, on the theory of deliberate
defendant's principal arguments on appeal concern the
absence of any instruction on manslaughter; he claims that
although he admittedly killed his wife, the trial evidence,
and particularly his own trial testimony, entitled him to
instructions on both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter,
and that for several reasons, the absence of these
instructions constituted error requiring reversal of his
conviction and a new trial. The defendant also seeks relief
pursuant to G. L. c. 278, § 33E. We affirm the
defendant's conviction and the order denying his motion
for a new trial, and decline to grant relief under G. L. c.
278, § 33E.
summarize facts that the jury could have found, and reserve
discussion of additional evidence in connection with the
issues raised. In May of 2011, the defendant and the victim
had been married for a decade or more.They jointly owned
a home in Worcester where they lived with their son and
daughter, aged ten and eleven, and the victim's sixteen
year old son from a prior relationship. The defendant and the
victim both held jobs outside the home, the defendant as a
truck driver and the victim at the Superior Court in
Worcester County, but the defendant quit his job around this
time, and the couple argued frequently, often about money.
Their relationship, however, contained no history of physical
that month, following an argument with his stepson, the
defendant left the couple's home and stayed with his
sister at her home in Worcester for some time and then went
to the Dominican Republic. He stayed there for about one week
before deciding to return home. Still in contact with the
victim via text messages both while staying with his sister
and during his trip to the Dominican Republic, the defendant
asked her to pick him up at the airport when he returned; she
refused. Nonetheless, he did return to Worcester on June 6,
2011, and stayed at his mother's house, but slept at a
friend's house on June 7, the night before the homicide.
night of June 7, the defendant exchanged a series of text
messages with Tina Rodriguez, a mutual friend of his and the
victim's. Pressing Rodriguez for the gossip she had heard
about his marriage, the defendant sent a text message
stating, "[The victim is] not who you think she is.
She's a hypocrite, " and continued, "She's
supposed to be Christian. Laugh out loud . . . . Let's
see if God saves her from this one." Asked to
elaborate, the defendant answered only, "You will see.
You know who I am." Rodriguez replied, "Remember
that you have children with her. Don't do anything
stupid." The defendant ended the exchange by asking that
Rodriguez not tell the victim they had spoken.
12:44 A.M. on June 8, the defendant sent a text message to
his sister saying, "Love sis. Thanks for everything,
" and another saying goodbye to his niece. He also asked
his niece to "get his cell phone, " to thank his
mother "for everything that she had done for him, "
and to relay his message that, "if anything happens to
me just let [my mother] know that I'm sorry and that I
love her." Forensic analysis of the defendant's
cellular telephone revealed a calendar entry for June 8,
2011, reading, "Ju[d]gment Day." There were no
other calendar entries for the six-month period beginning
January 1, 2011, except for one doctor's appointment on a
day in March.
defendant arrived at his and the victim's home early on
the morning of June 8, 2011. His stepson already had left for
school; his son and daughter were awake and getting ready for
school; the victim was in the master bedroom. Having let
himself into the house using the keys he still had, the
defendant spoke to no one before entering the master bedroom
and locking the door behind him. The children, both outside
the bedroom, heard "a weird gasp, " and "very
loud thuds" coming from inside. Unable to open the
bedroom door, they looked underneath the door and saw a pair
of black and white pants, along with "legs and feet
wiggling." The defendant's son asked through the
door, "What are you doing to my mom? Come and show
yourself, " and heard his father's voice respond,
"It's me." His daughter also recognized the
defendant's voice saying, "Be quiet" from
within the room. About five minutes later, the defendant
emerged from the bedroom, told his children their mother was
sick, asked whether they had brushed their teeth, and drove
them to school.
defendant then returned to his and the victim's home.
According to what he told the police later that morning and
told the jury at trial, when the defendant reentered the
house, he did not check on the victim or go to the bedroom,
but twice attempted to hang himself with a rope from the
second-floor staircase. Each time, however, the rope broke,
and in falling, he sustained injuries to his neck and face
and lost consciousness for a period of time. When he regained
consciousness, he drove the victim's automobile to his
mother's house and left his house key and cellular
telephone with his stepfather.
defendant proceeded to the Worcester police station, arriving
there at approximately 9 A.M. He entered the station and
reported to the officer at the front desk that he had killed
his wife. He wore a black and white track suit and the
victim's employment identification badge on a lanyard
around his neck. Police observed that the defendant had dried
blood in both nostrils, a split lip, and a ligature mark on
his neck. In separate morning and afternoon interviews, the
defendant spoke with police, waiving his Miranda rights each
defendant's first interview with the police was taking
place, other police officers went to the defendant's home
to investigate. They found the victim lying on the bed of the
master bedroom; she was dead. The victim's neck showed
three ligature marks, and the tissue underneath the marks
showed hemorrhaging consistent with blunt trauma. Her tongue
was bruised, her neck cartilage fractured, and her face
spotted with petechial hemorrhages. The victim died as a
result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation, which would
have required the application of sufficient pressure to her
neck for three to five minutes.
September, 2011, a Worcester County grand jury indicted the
defendant for murder. Because the victim had worked in the
Superior Court in Worcester County, the case was transferred
by agreement of the parties to the Superior Court in
Middlesex County. After an evidentiary hearing, a judge of
the Superior Court denied the defendant's motion to
suppress his statements to the police, and the case was tried
before a second Superior Court judge in October, 2012. The
jury were instructed on murder in the first degree on
theories of premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty,
and also murder in the second degree; the judge declined to
instruct on voluntary or ...