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Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Boyfriend is sentenced to life in prison for 2004 slaying
By Maureen Boyle, Enterprise staff writer

BROCKTON — In the months before she was killed, Betina J. Francois changed the locks in her Brockton home, obtained a restraining order and detailed to her sister at least one beating at the hands of her boyfriend.

But the 27-year-old woman still kept taking him back, her sister, Myriam Jean-Baptiste, said.

Until it was too late.

Francois was found stabbed to death in her home three years ago, and a note that authorities say was penned by her then boyfriend confessing to the killing was discovered near the body.

That boyfriend, Pierre Cadet of Brockton, was convicted Monday of first-degree murder after a Brockton Superior Court jury deliberated less than four hours.

Judge Frank M. Gaziano sentenced Cadet, a native of Haiti, to the mandatory life without parole.

The slaying of Francois highlights the hidden problem of domestic violence in the Haitian community, where women will stay with an abusive boyfriend or husband out of fear, embarrassment or economic need.

“It is a very complex issue in the immigrant community,” said Carline Desire, executive director of the Association of Haitian Women in Boston. Desire, calling domestic violence a “major problem” often overlooked in the Haitian community, said some women are also reluctant to call police, fearing their husbands or boyfriends will be deported if convicted.

“You have religious factors, you have social issues in terms of keeping the family together, you have shame issues, blaming issues,” Desire said. “Sometimes, family pressure is really a major factor.”

Francois' sister said that in Haiti many women are sent back to abusive spouses by their own families, who blame the victims for the abuse.

“Women don't tell,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Men get to beat the women and they can do nothing. They can't go to their families. The family will have no respect for them. They will say she did something to make him do that.” One study found 29 percent of women in Haiti experienced domestic violence and 42 percent of that group were hit five or more times in the past year, according to the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University.

Desire said there are laws against domestic violence in Haiti, but they are rarely enforced.

“It is still considered a family matter in Haiti,” she said.

Francois' sister said that must change.

Jean-Baptiste said Haitian women must develop escape plans when they are in abusive relationships, and then leave.

“When you go, don't turn back,” she said. “Once you turn back, you are never going to make it out alive.”

That's what happened to Francois, she said.

Francois was found stabbed to death in her Brockton apartment on Sept. 27, 2004, about 12 hours after Cadet, her ex-boyfriend, crashed her 2001 black Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle on Interstate 95 in Rhode Island. Police went to Francois' home to notify her about the crash and check on her well-being.

Cadet listed her home as his address, even though she had a restraining order against him.

First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton, in opening statements last week in Cadet's trial, told the jury Cadet stabbed Francois to death and then left a note at the scene confessing to the slaying.

“I would rather die than be in prison,” Cadet wrote in the note, Middleton told the jury.

Middleton said Francois had taken out a restraining order earlier, then went back to Cadet. However, the abuse in the relationship continued and Francois ended it again, he said.

But Cadet refused to let her go and on Sept. 26, 2004, stabbed her to death, he said.

Cadet's attorney, Frank Spillane, told the jury his client acted in self-defense, that Francois tried to first stab Cadet.

“She took the knife and placed it into his stomach,” he said. “He put up his hand to block her.”

He said there was no indication that Francois feared his client. The couple went to Canada and then to Florida a month before her death, even though the restraining order was in effect, he said.

After the verdict was returned Monday, Middleton said he was satisfied with the jury's decision.

“Justice was done,” the prosecutor said.

Maureen Boyle can be reached at mboyle@enterprisenews.com.

Reprinted from The Brocton Enterprise, online version, of Tuesday, May 8, 2007.

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