Witness Claims John Rams Told Him He Shot Shirley Reine, Another Said Rams Had Murder Weapon
By: SAM HOUGHTON, March 28, 2014
The trial of John Rams Jr. for the murder of Shirley M. Reine continued into day three, with a former prison cellmate of Mr. Rams, Harold Sherman, testifying that Mr. Rams told him he killed Ms. Reine and that he found a map of the crime scene in their prison cell. Mr. Sherman said he believed Mr. Rams used the map to find the firearm used to kill Ms. Reine.
As they had with another witness, the defense claimed the testimony a sham, that the former cellmate created the story to reduce his sentence for conviction of being a habitual thief. Mr. Sherman had made similar accusations recently to reduce a sentence, the defense said, and to gain privileges such as a laptop computer to write children’s fiction.
The third day of the trial, which could take an estimated three weeks to finish, began with Todd M. Reine and Melvin J. Reine Jr., the sons of Melvin J. Reine Sr., invoking their Fifth Amendment rights yesterday, although neither approached the witness stand. Todd Reine spent the first half of the yesterday’s hearing in the balcony of the courtroom, watching, after he evoked his Fifth Amendment rights. Melvin Reine Jr. left the courtroom.
The prosecution yesterday called as witnesses forensic, ballistic and autopsy specialists; Shirley Reine’s sister, Loretta Gilfoy of Davisville Road; and acquaintances and old employers of Mr. Rams.
Mr. Sherman, one arm in a blue sling and wearing blue jeans and glasses, took the stand just before the jury was let out for lunch. The Plymouth County Correctional Facility inmate told the jury how he and Mr. Rams became friends while cellmates in the Barnstable County Correctional Facility in 2006.
“He had told me that he had gotten into trouble and that Todd had paid [attorney J. Drew] Segadelli to represent Rams at the trial. Todd had him do a breaking and entering in Shirley’s house,” Mr. Sherman said. “Further on down the road, he was with Todd and indicated that he was on his way back from Rhode Island to obtain a clean weapon—a gun.”
“Did he say what the gun would be used for?” asked Brian S. Glenny, the prosecution’s attorney.
“To murder Shirley Reine.”
Mr. Sherman said that Todd Reine was upset with Mr. Rams because Mr. Rams had not taken jewelry from Shirley Reine as he was instructed.
Also, Mr. Sherman said that as Mr. Rams left the cell block, the defendant turned and told him to watch his head. Mr. Rams and Mr. Sherman had a joke between them after Mr. Sherman hit his head on a cabinet. Still, Mr. Sherman testified that Mr. Rams’s parting remarks seemed strange.
A little while later in the same prison, Mr. Sherman said that he looked into the same cabinet and found an inscription on the inside sticker of a bar of deodorant.
“I pulled it down, went into my cell and looked at it. It was a map of Shirley’s house and pointed to where the weapon was.”
As a precaution, Mr. Sherman said, he ripped it up and flushed it down a toilet. He said he did not contact the district attorney with his find until later. Mr. Sherman said rumor has spread through the Plymouth jail that he would be testifying in the trial and he fears for his life.
Before Mr. Sherman spoke, Judge Rufo warned the jury of the accountability of certain witnesses.
The defendant’s attorney, Timothy R. Flaherty, pressed Mr. Sherman on his accusations in a firm, loud voice and oftentimes pointed with a finger toward Mr. Sherman. Mr. Flaherty said he doubted Mr. Sherman’s story and said it was a sham in order that the district attorney give him a reduced sentence.
“Mr. Sherman, there wasn’t any map in a cabinet, was there?”
“Absolutely there was.”
“Okay,” Mr. Flaherty responded with a laugh. “Did you tell them [the district attorney] that Mr. Rams told you he threw the gun in the water and that ‘All I need is a swimsuit and a pair of goggles and I’ll find it’? You’re taking everyone for a ride, Mr. Sherman, aren’t you?”
“I’m putting my life at risk to help Shirley’s family.”
Mr. Flaherty questioned Mr. Sherman about a letter Mr. Sherman had recently written to a district attorney stating that an Orleans judge was in danger, that an inmate in the Plymouth correctional facility told Mr. Sherman he was going to murder the judge. Mr. Sherman had snitched, Mr. Flaherty said.
Mr. Flaherty asked Mr. Sherman if he had made demands such as a new laptop computer and to be transferred to a Martha’s Vineyard prison, that is known for its relaxed rules. Mr. Sherman said it was true.
“Did you get your laptop yet?” Mr. Flaherty asked.
After no response, Mr. Flaherty asked again, louder.
Mr. Sherman is 51 and said that he has spent 15 years or so in prison.
Mr. Glenny called Ayad Alkhafaji to the stand as his first witness on yesterday. Mr. Alkhafaji appeared in a black button-down shirt and had slicked back hair. Mr. Alkhafaji said he was friends with Mr. Rams when they worked at Central Carpet in Wareham.
Mr. Alkhafaji said Mr. Rams once invited him after work to his father’s house, where Mr. Rams was living at the time, and showed him a 9mm pistol. Mr. Alkhafaji handled the gun and read an inscription that said 9 mm in cursive. Mr. Rams wiped the fingerprints off the gun, Mr. Alkhafaji said, and said he did not like to have prints on his gun.
Mr. Alkhafaji also noted that Mr. Rams showed him bullets with a notable indentation on the tips and again wiped the bullets clean. Mr. Rams would later live with Mr. Alkhafaji.
Sergeant Stephen Walsh, a ballistics specialist with the Massachusetts State Police, later testified that the bullets and shell fragments found at the crime scene came from a 9mm pistol and the bullets were hallow points, notable for indents at the tip of the bullet.
The supervisor in the ballistics division during the murder investigation died, and Sgt. Walsh assumed his duties for the trial. Sgt. Walsh explained that the only gun with the characteristics matching the bullets found on the crime scene would fit a Hi-Point 9mm handgun.
Sgt. Walsh said that no gun has been recovered from the murder.
The evidence recovered indicated that the bullets left the barrel of the gun with a left twist and passed through nine different lanes and grooves within the barrel.
Mr. Glenny called Laura Bryant, a DNA specialist with the state police. According to her report, DNA samples from a male and Ms. Reine were taken from the crime scene. She did not identify Mr. Rams in connection with the DNA samples.
Mr. Flaherty asked Ms. Bryant if she had ever tested a pair of latex gloves. She responded she had not but said that the gloves sounded familiar to her. Mr. Flaherty referred to a pair of latex gloves that were found in Ms. Reine’s pocket at the murder scene.
Earlier in the trial, a state police chemist, Daniel Pratt, said a pair of latex gloves was not immediately tested for DNA samples. Mr. Flaherty asked him if it was not “textbook” procedure to test a pair of latex gloves found at a murder scene. Mr. Pratt said that it depended on the investigation. He said that latex gloves found on a murder victim probably would not belong to the perpetrator.
On Tuesday, day two of the trial, Mr. Flaherty challenged the thoroughness of an investigation, questioning another state police officer, Lieutenant Monte Gilardi, a recently retired forensics specialist. During his testimony, Lt. Gilardi said that he made a “rough examination” of a bootprint and said that it was a “likely comparison” to Michael Domingues, the first person on the murder scene on May 10, 2005. Mr. Flaherty asked if it was not “standard procedure” to check all the first responders’ bootprints. All 56 of them, Mr. Flaherty said, of firefighters and police officers to respond to the scene. “This is guess work, no?” Mr. Flaherty asked Lt. Gilardi.
“Absolutely not,” he responded. Each investigation is unique, he said. Only a handful of first responders entered under the yellow tape of the crime scene, Lt. Gilardi said.
Ms. Gilfoy, Ms. Reine’s sister, testified yesterday that she and Ms. Reine had had dinner together the night before she was murdered. She said Mr. Reine wore a maroon jacket and jeans to dinner and drove a green Maxima with the license plate 5 STAR.
Ms. Gilfoy said the next morning she went to her sister’s home after she received a phone call from Mr. Domingues. She saw a glimpse of the murder scene in the garage. Afterward, she began “pounding on doors” of other Reine family members at the East Falmouth Highway compound. The next thing she remembered was waking up in the hospital.
During cross-examination, Ms. Gilfoy said she was not concerned when her sister married Melvin Reine Sr. Mr. Flaherty told of the disappearances, murders, and arsons Mr. Reine Sr. was connected to.
Paul Davis, a friend of Mr. Rams’s father, John Rams Sr., testified yesterday. He had employed John Rams Jr. cleaning pipes and had fired him the day after the murder because he was acting more “bossy” that he normally did.
Attorney J. Drew Segadelli is scheduled to appear before the jury today.
No trial was held on Wednesday due to the snowstorm.