Peabody Man Found Guilty of 1st Degree Murder
A Salem Superior Court jury found Ashley Fernandes, 32, guilty of murder in the first degree today in the April 5, 2008 strangulation death of Jessica Herrera, who was his live-in girlfriend at the time. Judge Timothy Feeley imposed the mandatory sentence of life without parole.
Essex Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall proved that Fernandes strangled Herrera to death to prevent her from testifying against him in a domestic abuse case scheduled for April 11, 2008 and because she was planning to leave him. MacDougall presented evidence that showed that Fernandes took photographs of the victim during or just after the murder and later went to a local bar and spoke about his girlfriend’s body to another patron. That patron contacted police which resulted in the discovery of the victim’s body in the defendant’s apartment. MacDougall thanked that patron, Kenneth Morse, for his actions. “He really is a hero in this case,” MacDougall said.
“Domestic violence is about power and control. As this case illustrates, batterers will often try to blame the victim while the victim faces greater risks when attempting to leave. As District Attorney, I will continue to work with domestic violence agencies to ensure that victims have access to services while also holding batterers accountable for their actions,” District Attorney Blodgett said.
ADA MacDougall was second seated by Assistant District Attorney Karen Hopwood. Essex Victim Witness Advocate Kathy Draper provided support and services to Ms. Herrera’s family. MacDougall praised the work of the Peabody Police Department and Massachusetts State Police Detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office for their help in the investigation.
Fernandes was represented by Attorneys Aviva Jeruchim and David Grimaldi.