california local news

Man arrested in San Diego after shooting deaths of woman and daughter in Worcester, Mass.

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A man has been arrested in California days after a woman and her daughter were shot to death in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Law enforcement sources confirmed to NBC10 Boston Monday afternoon that U.S. Marshals took Dejan Dante Belnavis into custody in San Diego.

Belnavis, 27, was wanted on charges including armed assault to murder in the deaths of Chasity Nunez and her 11-year-old daughter, Zella, who were shot while sitting in a vehicle Tuesday.

The Nunezes were found shot in a parked SUV shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday, police said. They were taken to a hospital, where they were both pronounced dead.

Another person has been arrested in the shooting: Karel Mangual, a 28-year-old from Worcester who’s been charged with armed assault to murder.

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said Monday evening that the charges against Mangual would be upgraded to murder. Belnavis will also face murder charges when he is returned to Massachusetts, but Early said when that would happen would depend on whether he waives extradition.

Mangual’s attorney has said he’s innocent, with no witness or video connecting him to the shooting. He was held without bail after his first appearance in court.

Jennessa Burks, a local artist, never met 27-year-old Chasity Nunez or her 11-year-old daughter Zella, but many of her friends were close to Nunez, and she felt compelled to make a mural of the mother-daughter duo surrounded by roses, and she hopes the family will find comfort in it, once delivered.

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A suspected getaway car was found in Hartford, Connecticut, about an hour after the shooting.

Worcester police, with help from the U.S. Marshal’s Service and other agencies, were actively looking for Belnavis in the days after the victims were killed.

“We’re hoping the public helps us out here. We’re not gonna stop searching for this guy,” Interim Worcester Police Chief Paul Saucier said Friday. “We’re gonna go until we end up getting him.”

He added that this kind of violence is unusual in Worcester and they are determined to close the case. He added that most shootings they investigate involve repeat offenders.

“All of our violence stems from the same people. It’s time that it stops. We have to put these guys away. You know, it’s nice to give somebody another opportunity but if you’re out there shooting people, you need to be in jail,” Saucier said.

According to court documents, police were called to the area of the shooting shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday for a report of gunshots fired. A Nissan Rogue with Connecticut license plates was outside with two people inside and multiple gunshots visible.

The documents show that responding officers found the vehicle with multiple bullet holes throughout the driver’s side door and multiple shell casings on the ground. Both victims were found dead inside, one in the front driver’s seat and one in the front passenger’s seat.

The woman in the driver’s seat had “numerous gunshot wounds throughout her body” and was not breathing, according to police. The female victim in the passenger seat was also not breathing. Both were taken to an area hospital and pronounced dead.

Witnesses told police that they saw two people run after hearing the gunshots. One witness said the suspect drove off in a white sedan with Massachusetts license plates.

Police went to the address listed on the car’s registration and interviewed the owner, who told them he had been letting Belnavis, his girlfriend’s son, use the vehicle for about a year. Shrewsbury police had a record in their town of a motor vehicle crash in their town with a vehicle being operated by Belnavis in January. A local check showed that Belnavis also had prior firearm charges dating back to 2021.

Realizing the need to locate the vehicle due to the danger to the public, Worcester police used the vehicle’s connected car system through AT&T and were able to locate the vehicle in Hartford, Connecticut. Police said Belnavis is believed to have a relative who lives near where the vehicle was parked in Hartford.

A check of Belnavis’ cell phone data also showed that he was in the area of Engelwood Avenue at the time of the shooting and security video recovered from the area shows the victims parked in their SUV when two people walk up to it and start shooting. The shooters are then seen running in the direction where witnesses said the white sedan was parked. Additional security video also showed a vehicle consistent with the white sedan circling the area before the shooting and leaving the area after the shooting.

Security footage obtained from the area of Hartford where the car was found showed two males getting out of the vehicle. On the video, police said they could clearly see Mangual’s face. Both males were wearing footwear similar to what was being worn by the Worcester shooters.

Police said a check through the Criminal Justice Information Services system shows that neither Mangual nor Belnavis have a license to carry or a firearms identification card.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.