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Emotions run high in Milford over death blamed on immigrant

Ecuador tenders apology to family

By Jose Martinez
Globe Correspondent / September 8, 2011

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MILFORD - More than 200 people demonstrated against illegal immigration last night outside Milford’s town hall, where Ecuadoran officials offered condolences to the family of a local man allegedly killed by an illegal immigrant who was driving drunk.

Matthew Denice, 23, was riding a motorcycle on Aug. 20 when Nicolas Guaman, 34, allegedly struck him with a pickup truck and dragged him hundreds of yards before stopping. Denice died of his injuries.

Guaman, an immigrant from Ecuador living illegally in the US, faces numerous charges, including vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol.

“I want to see that justice is served for Matthew,’’ said Maureen Lequerre, who carried a handmade sign with a photograph of her brother, Richard Grossi, who was killed two years ago in a crash with an unlicensed driver who also was an illegal immigrant. “She [the driver] got a free ride with her family back to Portugal. She never spent a day in jail. She got away with killing him.’’

Motorists passing by on Main Street honked in support of the demonstration.

The meeting, held at the urging of Beatriz Almeida Stein, Ecuador’s Needham-based consul general, had to be moved upstairs to an auditorium from the Board of Selectmen’s basement chambers to accommodate the overflow crowd.

“I wish this meeting was under different circumstances,’’ began Pablo Calle, representing Ecuador’s National Department for Migrant Affairs. “We are very sad for the loss that the Denice family and this community had to suffer. There is nothing we can say or do to help them cope with the situation. We need to move forward.’’

Stein and Calle promised to meet with Milford Police Chief Thomas O’Loughlin and other officials in town to draw up a plan to educate the immigrant community about the need to respect laws. Selectman Dino DeBartolomeis suggested Stein and Calle report back to the board within a month.

But 25-year-old Michael Denice, Matthew’s brother, was less diplomatic. When offered the opportunity to speak, he stood directly in front of the seated diplomats and quickly fired off his questions.

“I just want to say as a community we welcome immigration. Those who come here correctly, go through the process with the proper documents, we welcome,’’ he began.

“My question to you is, those who are here illegally, what is your solution to that? They come here illegally. They cannot work because they don’t have documents, so they work for cash under the table to survive. They cannot drive, so they drive without licenses. They cannot get houses, so they provide false information to get housing.

“Once someone is here illegally, they have to do illegal things to stay in our community, whether it is working for cash under the table or driving without a license, whether it be collecting state services under false information. What is your solution to those illegal immigrants who are here today?’’

Denice drew a standing ovation.

“I wish I had an answer for that, Michael,’’ Calle offered, before explaining foreign governments could not intervene in other country’s affairs, including the ongoing debate over illegal immigration in the United States. Calle said his government is working on incentive programs to draw Ecuadorians back home.

Maureen Maloney, Matthew Denice’s mother, teared up as she spoke after the meeting.

“Did I hear anything that gives me any hope? No. I have no hope going forward. I don’t think this meeting accomplished anything, unfortunately,’’ she said. “I think they are trying to soothe the outrage, but I don’t think this is going to work this time. I think the community has had enough. I don’t want my son to have died in vain. I don’t ever want another family to go through this again.’’

“It is way more than the illegal immigration issue. There is the drunken driving issue that needs to be addressed in every community. But had this person been deported like he should have been, he wouldn’t have been here to get drunk.’’

Guaman had been arrested by Milford police in 2008 on charges of breaking and entry and assaulting a police officer, a firefighter, and a paramedic, O’Loughlin said.

Jose Martinez can be reached at martinezjose1@mac.com