Opening Arguments Heard In Shirley Reine Murder Trial
By: SAM HOUGHTON, March 25, 2014
The trial of John Rams Jr. for the murder of Shirley M. Reine began yesterday at the Barnstable Superior Court with expected drama as both the defendant and plaintiff gave their opening remarks and the jury heard from five witnesses.
Witnesses included first responders to the murder scene early on the morning of May 10, 2005; a female acquaintance of Mr. Rams and Todd M. Reine; an employee of Five Star Enterprises, the Reine family business that Shirley Reine ran from 2002 up until her death while her husband, Melvin J. Reine Sr., was in a mental institution with dementia; and a county detective.
Open arguments were brief but had a flair of drama. First district attorney Brian S. Glenny delivered his argument while he paced back and forth in front of the jury. One of his hands jingled change in his pocket.
“The evidence will show that John Rams is the person who shot Shirley Reine,” he said. “One shot went through her purse, into her chest, out her back, off the dashboard of her car, off the windshield before coming to rest in the passenger side of the car,” he said. “The second shot went into Shirley’s temple, into her throat area, where it was recovered in an autopsy.”
Each witness will add a piece to the puzzle that shows enough evidence of Mr. Rams’s guilt, Mr. Glenny said. “I do ask that you keep an open mind and remain patient until all of the evidence is produced,” Mr. Glenny told the jury. He said that his case would be made in piecemeal.
Mr. Glenny said Mr. Rams’s own statements will give the jury enough evidence to show that he committed the crime for Todd M. Reine.
“Not all of the witnesses are the most outstanding citizens, they might not all be invited to dinner at Robert Kraft’s house, but that is who John Rams hung out with and that’s who John Rams trusted,” Mr. Glenny said. “It was he who snuck into the garage, it was he who shot her, and it was he who was asked to commit this crime by Todd Reine.”
One of the witnesses was Stacy A. Vantangoli. Ms. Vantangoli said that Mr. Rams told her that he would put two bullets “behind her ears” like he did to Shirley Reine.
Ms. Vantangoli gave her testimony with a shaky voice.
She said that Mr. Rams whispered this to her while at a party on the back deck of a home when they, as well as others, were “drinking and doing cocaine.” She said that Mr. Rams told her that he came up right behind Shirley Reine and put two bullets in her ear inside of a garage.
Did he say who he did it for?” Mr. Glenny asked.
“Todd,” Ms. Vantangoli said.
Ms. Vantangoli said that her boyfriend at the time had urged her to call the district attorney about the conversation so that his sentence for another crime might be lighter. Her boyfriend faced charges of assault and battery and for arson in connection with a fire that burned down Ms. Vantangoli’s horse farm.
Mr. Rams’s attorney, Timothy R. Flaherty, a Boston lawyer, gave his opening remarks in a loud voice and made vigorous hand gestures throughout the speech. Mr. Flaherty is a tall, athletically built man who was dressed in a black suit and black, square rimmed glasses and has a crew cut.
The plaintiff’s case is based on “rumor, gossip, speculation, conjecture, surmise—not evidence—with a healthy dose of misrepresentation, deceit and outright falsehoods mixed in from unreliable, unbelievable sources who conveniently tell this story to the government because they are looking to curry favor,” Mr. Flaherty argued.
John Rams had nothing to do with this murder, he said.
“He need not call a witness to meet the likes of the folks the government’s going to promise to tell you their stories. Consider the source, consider their motivations,” Mr. Flaherty advised the jury.
While cross-examining Ms. Vantangoli, Mr. Flaherty asked if she was under the influence of any narcotics while on the stand. She said she was taking medication, Ativan, for her “severe PTSD.” Ms. Vantangoli said she suffered from concussions as well and had a hard time with memory, although some incidents were fresh in her mind, such as the conversation on the deck with Mr. Rams.
Mr. Flaherty also questioned Ms. Vantangoli’s sexual affairs that included relations with Todd Reine and J. Drew Segadelli, an attorney who had represented Mr. Rams’s girlfriend, Nadia M. Smuliac. She had affairs and said she had no shame that she slept with other men while in a relationship with her now deceased boyfriend.
Mr. Flaherty continued to mispronounce her name, apologizing after each time. Ms. Vantangoli was at the point of tears during some points of the cross-examination.
The first witness called to the stand was Michael Domingues, an employer of the Reine family trash business and the first to notify police of Ms. Reine’s death. Mr. Glenny presented to the jury a recording of a phone call Mr. Domingues made to police when he found Ms. Reine. “I think someone shot Shirley,” Mr. Domingues said in the recording, his voice resounding in the court room. “She’s gone. Jesus Christ.”
Mr. Domingues, a resident of Carriage Shop Road, East Falmouth, had brought two cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to meet Ms. Reine at the Reine property on East Falmouth Highway, where Ms. Reine lived. Bringing the coffee was a regular occurrence. After finding the front door to the home locked, he proceeded to the garage.
Mr. Domingues testified that one night following the death of Shirley Reine, he went to the garage again and found Todd Reine and a private detective in the garage taking measurements and taking notes of the crime scene. They left after Mr. Domingues called the police. Mr. Domingues said he had built a make-shift blockade of the broken garage door. That night he had received a call from Todd Reine’s wife and had immediately driven to Ms. Reine’s home.
Mr. Domingues said that since the onset of the investigation, he believed that Todd Reine or his brother, Melvin J. Reine Jr., had something to do with Ms. Reine’s death. He said that Melvin Reine Sr. cut both brothers’ ties to the family business. Shirley Reine had control of the family business and this angered the brothers, Mr. Domingues said.
“Do you see Todd Reine at the defense table?” Mr. Flaherty asked Mr. Domingues during a cross examination.
“No,” he responded.
Mr. Glenny fired back that Mr. Rams associated with Todd Reine, to which Judge Robert Rufo halted Mr. Glenny and told the jury to disregard Mr. Glenny’s statements.
The three other witnesses included a Falmouth police officer and a Falmouth firefighter, both first responders to the scene of the crime, as well as a lieutenant from the district’s crime forensics unit.
Mr. Rams made no remarks Monday and sat dressed in a black suit, occasionally writing in a notepad or whispering with his attorney. He was not in shackles.