Police are generally pleased when they come across an open and shut case, but that was hardly the mood in Johnston Deputy Police Chief David DeCesare’s office yesterday morning.
“This is only the beginning,” he said as he spoke of the arrest of Johnston resident Donald K. Greenslit for the murder of his common-law wife, 39-year-old Stacie M. Dorego, on Sunday. “We have got statements to transcribe, BCI evidence to pull together, follow-up with the family…This is far from being over.”
DeCesare had little to add to the details of the crime contained in the press release the department put out earlier this week, when Johnston Police went to 16 Pershing Rd. at approximately 8:10 p.m. on Sunday and found smoke coming from inside the house. Johnston firefighters responded to the scene to investigate the cause of the smoke and found two young children inside the house. The children were evacuated from the house and were transported to Hasbro Children’s Hospital to be evaluated for smoke inhalation.
Officers on scene attempted to gather information from Greenslit, who they described as unfazed about leaving his children, ages 3 and 5, unattended in the smoke-filled residence. He also refused to provide any information on the whereabouts of the children’s mother or provide a way for police to contact her. They said Greenslit was attempting to keep firefighters out of the house and was yelling at them to leave and re-entered the house several times to prevent them from doing their work. For that, he was placed under arrest for obstructing police and fire personnel taken to headquarters.
In the meantime, firefighters identified the source of smoke as a fireplace in the basement with an obstructed chimney, which caused smoke to billow into the residence. Then, firefighters discovered unidentifiable charred and burned human remains wrapped in burnt cloth, resting directly in front of the fireplace. The found a bone about 10 inches long that appeared to have been cut with a saw-like tool. They found more remains as they picked apart debris to ensure that the fire had been completely extinguished.
DeCesare said Greenslit finally told police that he cut up the 39-year-old woman’s body and attempted to burn it in a fireplace.
“He said they were arguing and he claimed he was threatening to leave the house when she attacked him with a knife and he was fending her off when the knife stabbed her,” said DeCesare, “but he didn’t explain why he decided that he should handle the situation [after that] the way he did.”
Greenslit appeared in Third District Court in Warwick on Tuesday afternoon. He did not enter a plea and was ordered held without bail. He faces multiple charges, including domestic murder, child abuse and violating a no-contact order, DeCesare said.
Court records show that Greenslit was in court for abusing Dorego in October. A no-contact order was issued to keep Greenslit away from Dorego after he was charged with assaulting her and Greenslit pleaded no contest to domestic assault and was sentenced on Nov. 3 to 10 days in jail, 355 days of probation and a no contact order.
Last January, the 52-year-old Greenslit pleaded no contest to domestic assault on Dorego in connection to an incident that took place on Oct. 28, 2010, according to court records. He was given a six-month suspended sentence and was ordered to participate in domestic abuse counseling. Domestic assault and domestic disorderly conduct charges were also were brought against Greenslit on Feb. 8, 2009, court records show. The case was dismissed in April 2009 after Dorego informed prosecutors she was not willing to go forward with the case.
Detective Major Michael Colucci said DCYF took initial custody of the two children involved, and they were evaluated for any effects of smoke inhalation.
Yesterday, Dorego’s sister, Jami DeSantis Ouellette, said the children were doing fine.
“The children are now in a safe, stable environment with our family,” she said. “So many generous people have reached out to us; we are incredibly grateful.”
Oullette asked that the children’s privacy be respected as they mourn their loss, but added that she is appreciative of the support her family has received from friends, family and the public.
“We are putting a list together of some immediate needs. Many are already collecting clothing, so we need to assess what we will have by the end of the week,” she said. “Please be patient as we find our way.”
The murder has hit the community hard as well and served as a reminder of the work to be done by advocates for victims of domestic violence.
“Our hearts go out to the children, family and community affected by last night’s domestic violence murder in Johnston. We are horrified and saddened by this gruesome act of domestic violence,” Judith Earle, executive director of the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, and Deborah DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said in a joint statement released Monday. “This tragic death, the first domestic violence murder of 2012, reminds us how far we still must go to realize a society free of domestic violence. We are particularly saddened to hear about such young children found at the scene of the crime. Domestic violence has powerful and long-term impacts on children who live in homes where domestic violence occurs.”
(With reports by Meri R. Kennedy)