Judge hears motion for new trial in ’90s Greenfield murder case

  • Elvio J. Marrero, center, wearing a purple face mask, is flanked by his defense team, from left to right, attorneys Ira Gant, Lauren Jacobs and Charlotte Whitmore, and a Spanish language interpreter. A court officer is in the background. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 12/6/2021 6:46:55 PM
Modified: 12/6/2021 6:46:27 PM

GREENFIELD — A former Greenfield man who has been in prison for 25 years after he was convicted of a 1994 murder is in the middle of a motion hearing so a Franklin County Superior Court judge can decide whether to grant him a new trial.

Elvio J. Marrero, now 59, was convicted in November 1996 of the murder of Pernell R. Kimplin of Greenfield and sentenced to life behind bars. But the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Boston College Innocence Program have joined forces to try to get Marrero in front of a jury again, citing travel information they say suggests Marrero was out of the country when the murder occurred. He has been incarcerated at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley.

Witnesses, including one of Marrero’s defense attorneys in 1996 and former employees of the Holyoke travel agency Marrero frequently used, were called to the stand Monday as the defense and prosecution started to make their cases in the motion hearing, which was continued until Dec. 13 or possibly next month because Judge Michael Callan has court obligations elsewhere through December.

Marrero, who listened to the court proceedings with help from a Spanish interpreter, is represented by Ira Gant of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, as well as the Innocence Program’s Lauren Jacobs and Charlotte Whitmore. The commonwealth is represented by First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne and Assistant District Attorneys Bethany Lynch and Cynthia Von Flatern.

Lori Levinson, one of the defense attorneys in 1996, was the first to take the stand. She testified that she had been tasked with investigating an alibi defense for Marrero, who claimed to be in the Dominican Republic when Kimplin was killed. She said the defense team’s paralegals worked tirelessly to get American Airlines — the airline Marrero used to get to the Dominican Republic — to turn over passenger name records and “ran into brick wall after brick wall” before receiving them in the middle of the trial.

The document, Levinson testified, looks like “codes and initials and things,” including the letters “ADA.” Levinson said her team fruitlessly tried to determine what these letters stood for, only for Levinson to learn through Gant’s investigation that they were a capitalization of Ada, the first name of the travel agent who took Marrero’s reservation and who testified via Zoom from her Florida home on Monday.

The document also contained a phone number with a 413 area code, making it unlikely that the reservation belonged to another E. Marrero, as the prosecution has suggested. However, Levinson said, this phone number could not be connected to anyone.

Levinson said she has since reviewed other documents that would have been crucial during cross-examination 25 years ago because they contradict the travel agency owner’s testimony that no records were kept. The focus had always been on what time Marrero boarded a plane the day Kimplin was killed.

Members of Marrero’s family were present in the courtroom Monday, and at least 40 people tuned in via Zoom.

According to online sources, Kimplin was found dead in his Greenfield apartment on Oct. 16, 1994. He had been gagged, and his hands and feet were hog-tied with electrical cords and rope. He had been stabbed once in the chest and once in the back and had been beaten on his head, neck, shoulders and back with a wooden board broken from a dresser drawer. The medical examiner opined that the victim died on or about Oct. 14, 1994, as a result of the stab wounds.

Kimplin, who was 26 at the time, was last seen alive in his apartment on the evening of Oct. 13, 1994. Marrero was also at the victim’s apartment and was reportedly planning to spend the night there.

Marrero appealed his conviction to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court at least once, in 1998, claiming his trial judge was wrong to admit evidence of Marrero’s previous acts of violence and drug dealing. He also claimed the judge’s instructions to the jury were flawed. However, the court affirmed the conviction and declined to order a new trial or enter a verdict of a lesser degree of guilt.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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