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Convicted felon and convicted killer of homeless man both arrested after pregnant woman found dead in pond days before Christmas

Gary Gromkiewicz, Leila Duarte Da Luz, Michael Lambert

Gary Gromkiewicz, Leila Duarte Da Luz, Michael Lambert (Images of suspects via Rhode Island State Police; image of victim via WPRI screengrab)

Two convicted felons are to blame for the death of a pregnant 34-year-old woman found with head wounds in a Rhode Island pond just days before Christmas in 2022, according to state police.

Gary R. Gromkiewicz, identified as the 35-year-old father of Leila Patricia Duarte Da Luz’s unborn baby, faces murder charges alongside Michael P. Lambert, a 46-year-old “known associate” of Gromkiewicz’s who was convicted of the 1994 Thanksgiving Day murder of a homeless man.

Lambert, of Pawtucket, was out on parole and Gromkiewicz, of Lincoln, was on probation for a 2015 felony assault with a deadly weapon, state cops said. Da Luz’s suspicious death in Coventry’s Carbuncle Pond was discovered on Dec. 21, 2022, just four days before Christmas.

“Once on scene, detectives observed that the unidentified female had sustained several lacerations to her head and determined that her death was suspicious. The following day, the Rhode Island Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy and confirmed the manner of death as a homicide and the victim was pregnant,” cops said.

Six days after the gruesome discovery at the pond and after the Brockton Police Department in Massachusetts received a missing person report, Da Luz was identified as the victim of a murder. State police said dozens of search warrants — 53, to be exact — were executed over the course of the “extensive” investigation.

“The evidence collected required a massive amount of time and effort for investigators to analyze the technical data and physical evidence. But with this information, coupled with numerous witness interviews, detectives established the framework for the criminal charges brought forth today,” state police said.

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“I want to commend our Troopers and partners in law enforcement for their exceptional diligence and hard work in pursuit of justice for Ms. Da Luz,” Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. Darnell S. Weaver said in a statement. “On behalf of the Rhode Island State Police, I extend my condolences to the loved ones of Ms. Da Luz at this difficult time.”

Both Lambert and Gromkiewicz are in custody and facing charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Gromkiewicz is in the custody of state police; Lambert is in custody at the state Adult Correctional Institution for violating his parole in the 1994 murder of 45-year-old Sylvester Gardiner, a homeless man beaten to death under an I-95 on-ramp in downtown Providence.

A Rhode Island Supreme Court decision upheld Lambert’s convictions for second-degree murder and committing a crime of violence while armed with a firearm on Dec. 22, 1997 — almost exactly 25 years before Da Luz was found dead.

Sylvester Gardiner’s injuries were so “grave” that the state medical examiner said it “Looked like he got hit by a train,” according to the Rhode Island Supreme Court decision:

Gardiner’s facial bones were completely destroyed, an ax handle was impaled through his face, he had massive hemorrhaging injuries to his neck, and he had sustained serious injuries to his groin. [Co-defendant William] Page’s palm print was found on the ax handle, and Lambert’s palm print was found on the handle of an ice chopper retrieved from the scene of the crime. [State Medical Examiner, Elizabeth Laposata, M.D] testified that the ice chopper could have inflicted some of Gardiner’s injuries, although Lambert testified in his own defense that he had picked up the ice chopper and discarded it without ever having wielded it against Gardiner. Lambert did admit that he procured the rope with which Page bound Gardiner, that he kicked the victim, and that he struck him a few times with a light-weight broom handle. Laposata testified that Gardiner was alive during most of the beating, which she estimated took about ten minutes to inflict.

Lambert was 17 years old at the time of the “savage and undeniably felonious assault” and murder of Gardiner, and he played an “integral and active role” in the slaying, the court said.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.