Illegal immigrant reportedly strangles beloved teacher’s aide

A 54-year-old illegal immigrant, Jose Melendez, was arraigned on murder charges in Worcester District Court on Monday for the February 5 strangulation of Sandra Hehir, 49, in her Worcester, Massachusetts, home  Prosecutors disclosed that DNA evidence obtained in the case that reportedly links Melendez to the crime.

Shortly after her death, community members and others touched by her life began sharing accolades and stories about the beloved woman, who was a middle school instructional assistant.  As reported in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Superintendent Maureen F. Binienda said, “All her life she was a very kind person. Great athlete, very smart – had a lot of friends.”

John Bradley, Ms. Hehir’s former brother-in-law and close friend, said, “She was just a wonderful person. Very friendly, sociable, very healthy – very into running and taking care of herself.”

Her longtime friend, Carrie Gladden, said Hehir was the kind of person people just wanted to be around, adding, “If you ever needed a good laugh, she was the one that would give it to you.”   Gladden noted that Hehir’s father died shortly after she was born and that she devoted herself to caring for her mother when, later in life, she had cancer. Hehir quit her job to care for her mother, according to Gladden.

“That was her life for a few years. She made sure that her mom was comfortable until her last day.”

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Melendez is subject to deportation, and a detainer was placed on him on March 20, the day of his arraignment on the murder. He has a history of arrests including drug charges, with two drug cases in Worcester.  In 2014, he was on probation for breaking and entering and he reportedly defaulted on the terms of probation.

Melendez’s next court date is April.  Reports note that he also faces criminal charges originating in New York and Florida.

[Feature Photo: Worcester Public Schools]