Two convicted felons in Rhode Island suspected of murdering a pregnant 34-year-old woman found dead by a fisherman in an icy pond days before Christmas last year have now been indicted as her killers.
Gary R. Gromkiewicz, a 36-year-old Lincoln resident who authorities identified as the ex-boyfriend of Leila Patricia Duarte Da Luz and father of her unborn child, was indicted alongside 46-year-old Michael Lambert, a parolee in Pawtucket once convicted for the 1994 Thanksgiving Day murder of a homeless man.
Gromkiewicz was on probation for a 2015 felony assault with a deadly weapon, state cops said at the outset of the case. Lambert was described as Gromkiewicz’s “known associate.”
According to authorities, an “extensive” investigation into the two convicted felons, involving analysis of “technical data and physical evidence,” as well as witness interviews, proved to be the key to establishing the initial “framework” for murder and conspiracy charges.
Local ABC affiliate WLNE, citing prosecutors, reported that Gromkiewicz was Da Luz’s fiancé and that the two had an argument over the amount of money he spent on a ring.
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.
When Brockton cops reached Gromkiewicz, he allegedly denied knowing where Da Luz was.
During a reported subsequent phone call with local Lincoln cops, an “increasingly agitated” Gromkiewicz allegedly hung up the phone after saying: “I’m all set. I have a girlfriend. I don’t want anything to do with Leila. If you find her, don’t call me. I don’t care.”
A grand jury has since indicted Gromkiewicz and Lambert on two charges each. Rhode Island court records say both defendants were indicted on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha (D) announced the indictments on Thursday, saying Gromkiewicz and Lambert are each charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
“As alleged in court proceedings, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on December 21, 2022, Gromkiewicz and Lambert traveled to Brockton, Mass. to pick up the victim at her home. The victim was Gromkiewicz’s ex-girlfriend and was pregnant at the time,” the attorney general’s office said. “According to cell phone location data, they then drove throughout Rhode Island over the course of the morning, making multiple stops at gas stations and convenience stores as captured on surveillance footage.”
“As further alleged, at approximately 6:18 a.m., cell phone location data then tracked their travel to western Coventry, in an area where Carbuncle Pond is located, and where the victim’s body was later recovered,” the press release continued.
Tragically, Leila Duarte Da Luz was found dead on Dec. 21, 2022, just days before Christmas. A fisherman saw her body “beneath the ice [of the pond], with lacerations on her head.”
At the time Da Luz was found dead in Coventry’s Carbuncle Pond, she was eight to 10 weeks pregnant and was reportedly wearing an engagement ring.
Authorities say that the medical examiner concluded, based on water in Da Luz’s lungs, that the victim was still alive before she “entered the water” and drowned. Da Luz had “sustained blunt force trauma to the head.”
The defendants’ arraignments are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 29, a Friday, in Kent County Superior Court. A pretrial conference for both is currently slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 30.
The suspects remain held without bond ahead of trial.
As Law&Crime reported in May, Michael Lambert was initially taken into custody 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.
Lambert was just 17 years old at the time of the murder.
Sylvester Gardiner’s injuries were so “grave” that the state medical examiner said it “Looked like he got hit by a train,” according to a Rhode Island Supreme Court decision upholding the murder conviction.
Da Luz, born in Cabo Verde, was survived by her “loving parents” and a “a host of relatives and friends that will cherish her memories,” her obituary said.
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