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A 54-year-old man who prosecutors say has a significant criminal history is accused of bludgeoning his live-in girlfriend to death with a hammer in their Massachusetts home after a night of drinking and drugs before hiding in a shed down the road, where police found him and took him into custody.
Matthew Lucas pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Fall River District Court to murder in the killing of Heidi Chace, 44. He was ordered held in custody without bail, prosecutors said.
The suspect’s daughter reacted to the horrific outside court.
“I knew my dad had issues, but I didn’t think he would kill somebody,” she said, CBS Providence, Rhode Island, affiliate WPRI reported.
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said it was a brutal killing.
“It’s just another tragedy,” he said, the station reported. “But as you’ve heard, the defendant has a significant criminal history.”
The victim was killed early Wednesday. A neighbor called police at 4:35 a.m., saying a woman had been found unconscious at a home at 92 Chace Road in East Freetown, south of Boston.
Authorities found Chace’s body with significant trauma to her face, blood throughout the house, and a hammer “saturated in blood that had hair on it,” in a “particularly violent and vicious crime scene,” said Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Caleb Weiner, Boston Fox affiliate WFXT reported.
The killing allegedly happened after the couple smoked crack cocaine and drank with neighbors. One of the neighbors told ABC Boston affiliate WCVB that she felt he would kill her.
“And that’s what I woke up to,” she said. “Everybody fights, gets into arguments. You never think they’re really going to go through with what they say.”
Witnesses told investigators that at one point during the partying, the suspect allegedly started grabbing at the victim’s hair and neck, and the two had to be separated. Later, witnesses reported hearing Lucas yelling and objects being smashed at their home, the prosecutor said, WFXT reported.
A neighbor checking on the couple allegedly heard Lucas say, “Why are you cold, Heidi? I love you.”
“He engaged Lucas at that time through the screen door, and Lucas explained that he had killed Heidi and that his life was over,” Weiner said, WFXT reported.
Lucas was found in a shed less than a mile from the home and taken into custody.
Weiner said the suspect, who had a long rap sheet with convictions for violent crimes and restraining orders, “had just been released from a commitment” two days before Chace was killed, WFXT reported.
Lucas’ defense attorney said in court he has a history of mental health issues, including schizophrenia, the station reported.
Lucas is set to appear in court on Oct. 20.
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