SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 29, 2014

Parole denied in dragging death

Lynn man killed outside Peabody bar in 1998

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY — The state Parole Board has denied a bid for release by a man who admitted driving into a crowd outside a Peabody bar, running down a woman and then dragging her boyfriend to his death 16 years ago.

Gerson Chavez, who also used the name Eremilson Barbosa, “is neither remorseful nor rehabilitated,” the board said in a toughly worded decision in which members concluded that Chavez continues to lie about and minimize his role in Paul Cunha’s death.

During a parole hearing last year, Chavez said he had no idea he’d struck and run over anyone, insisting he would have stayed at the scene and tried to help.

But board members were skeptical, saying they do not believe Chavez didn’t notice Cunha, 24, holding onto the bumper for dear life and screaming as Cunha dragged him down Walnut Street for 400 feet. Cunha eventually lost his grasp, slipped beneath the car and was run over.

Also run over repeatedly was Anna Marconi, then 27, Cunha’s girlfriend. After knocking both Cunha, of Lynn, and Marconi, of Peabody, to the ground, Chavez drove over the woman, backed up over her, and then pulled forward again, driving over her a third time, before speeding down the street with Cunha still on the car.

After running over Cunha, Chavez, who was drunk at the time, lost control of the car and crashed into a curb. He fled on foot to an apartment.

Marconi spent three months in a coma, she told a judge during Chavez’s sentencing in November 1998. Her injuries left her with permanent brain damage.

Chavez, a Brazilian national in the United States illegally after jumping bail in a California deportation proceeding, was found hours later, hiding in a closet inside a Peabody apartment. He claimed to police that he had been working all day and that someone had borrowed his car.

“The facts establish knowledge, malice and considerable intentional conduct,” the board wrote in a unanimous decision.

Cunha was a part-time manager and Marconi a waitress at the bar, which was on the corner of Central and Walnut streets. Chavez was a regular there. A friend of Chavez, Wilson DaSilva, got into an argument and then a fight with Cunha outside after closing.

A crowd had gathered to watch, and eventually, DaSilva fled. That’s when Chavez suddenly drove into the crowd, directly toward Cunha and Marconi.

It was only as opening statements were about to begin in Newburyport Superior Court the following November that Chavez admitted what he had done, pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

His attorney at the time told Judge Barbara Rouse that Chavez had expressed remorse and said, “He is truly sorry for what occurred.”

But 15 years later, during his parole hearing, the Parole Board disagreed.

“Based on the evidence and convictions, the Parole Board cannot accept Chavez’s testimony that he did not know he struck the victims,” the decision said. “His untruthful testimony, which minimizes his responsibility, is a sign that he is neither remorseful nor rehabilitated.”

The board said Chavez cannot again seek parole for at least five years and recommended that before he comes back before them, he should address issues of “honesty, remorse and victim empathy.”

If he is ever paroled, Chavez will face deportation.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.