Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mother of toddlers receives justice after "boyfriend" who killed her sentenced to life with parole

PROVIDENCE –– Almost four months after he strangled his estranged girlfriend, struck her head several times and fatally stabbed her, Herbert Byrd made a tearful courtroom apology at his sentencing Wednesday after pleading no contest to first-degree murder and arson.

“I’m sorry for all the pain I caused everyone,” said Byrd as the family of Linda Encarnacao looked on in Superior Court.

“I turn to God for forgiveness, and he says he forgives all,” Byrd said, pausing as emotion overwhelmed him. “But how can he forgive me when I can’t forgive myself?”

Encarnacao, 26, was found alive, but dying and unconscious, in her burning Reservoir Triangle apartment on May 14.

She had suffered 26 stab wounds and lacerations to her stomach, face and other areas of her body. Byrd also caused strangulation wounds to her neck and he inflicted a blunt force injury to her head, according to Assistant Attorney General Scott Erickson.

After inflicting “the multiple trauma injuries” that caused the woman’s death, Byrd set fire to her apartment, Erickson added in court yesterday.

Judge William E. Carnes Wednesday sentenced Byrd to life in prison for murder and imposed a concurrent 20-year sentence on the arson count. He also ordered that Byrd serve an additional 10 years for being a habitual offender.

Byrd’s plea bargain, which the attorney general’s office said allowed him to avoid a possible sentence of life without parole, gives Byrd a chance for parole in 2029, a fact that haunts Encarnacao’s family, who asked Carnes to imprison Byrd for life with no possibility of parole.

Authorities say the 26-year-old Byrd attacked Encarnacao because he was jealous and wanted a more substantial relationship than she was willing to allow.

He was a regular caretaker of Encarnacao’s two children and a father of one of the youngsters. The children, now 3 and 5 years old, were in Byrd’s care before he left them alone and set out for Encarnacao’s apartment, according to authorities.

The slaying was one of 13 homicides in Providence this year, the same number as in all of 2008.

Encarnacao’s murder happened about eight months after a domestic incident involving Byrd and Encarnacao in September 2008.

Immediately after the incident, Encarnacao told the police Byrd had strangled her until she passed out and he had tried to rape her, but she later told authorities she did not want to press a charge of domestic simple assault against him.

In the sentencing Wednesday, Carnes deemed Byrd a habitual offender because of convictions in 2006 for possessing a controlled substance and delivering a controlled substance. The 10 year prison term on that count with no chance for parole is consecutive to the other two sentences. This means Byrd must serve an additional 10 years if he should be receive parole on the murder count, according to Erickson, who figures Byrd would be eligible for parole on May 14, 2029. Byrd’s release at that time would put people in danger, according to members of Encarnacao’s family.

The family members crafted a joint statement that Special Assistant Attorney General Diane Daigle read to the court before Byrd’s sentencing.

“In 30 years, Mr. Byrd will be in his 50s and he will be released,” says the statement. “Linda’s two children and family will again relive this horrible nightmare and be petrified that he will come searching for them. What more does Mr. Byrd need to do to prove that he is a leach on society? Words can never express how Mr. Byrd’s senseless and violent crime has forever changed our lives.”

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