FALL RIVER — Multiple killer Daniel T. Tavares Jr. today pleaded not guilty to charges that he murdered Gayle Botelho 25 years ago and then buried the body of the mother of three girls in what was then his backyard in this Southeastern Massachusetts city.
Tavares is now 47 years old, serving time in a Washington state prison for two other murders. In a letter he sent to the Boston Herald in May he wrote that he remembered killing Botelho and would acknowledge his guilt.
But today when he was arraigned in Bristol County Superior Court, with his defense attorney, Christopher T. Belezos, standing by his side, Tavares asserted his innocence.
“Not guilty,’’ Tavares said during the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes.
More than a dozen relatives of Botelho were in court for the brief arraignment.
Botelho disappeared in 1988. Her body wasn’t discovered until 2000 when Tavares directed State Police and former Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. to the backyard of his former home. He also claimed that two other men killed Botelho.
Walsh’s successor, C. Samuel Sutter, pursued the case and earlier this year obtained the first-degree murder indictment after an unidentified person who had provided Tavares with an alibi suddenly had a change of heart, and implicated the killer in the woman’s murder.
Tavares’s first known homicide was the 1991 killing of his mother, Ann Marie Tavares, of Somerset, whom he stabbed 16 times. He was allowed by Walsh to plead guilty to manslaughter in that case.
In 2007, Tavares was released from state prison after completing his manslaughter sentence, but before he was fully prosecuted on charges of assaulting prison guards. He was released on personal recognizance by prosecutors and the courts, and fled to Washington state where he shot and killed his neighbors, Beverly and Brian Mauck, on Nov. 17, 2007.
Tavares pleaded guilty to killing the Maucks in 2008 and is serving life without the possibility of parole in Washington.
If convicted in Massachusetts for Botelho’s murder, Tavares faces the same punishment here. A pretrial hearing was slated for Oct. 16.