Aristides Duarte

Victim: Charleston Sarjeant, 25

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime location: A Tasty Chicken restaurant in Boston

Crime date:  April 22, 1992

Partner in crime: James Villaroel, Lamar Johnson, Adriano Barros, & others

Weapon: Radio, person, & knife

Murder method: Beating and stabbing 

Murder motivation: Intimidate the restaurant’s owners

Convictions:  Murder in the first degree and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon

Sentence: LWOP reduced to 15 to life


Charleston Sarjeant was with his wife and friend at a Tasty Chicken restaurant when he was stabbed and beaten to death. The killers intended to attack customers to intimidate the restaurant’s owners, who had complained about them to police.


Debra Sarjeant, the wife of murder victim, Charleston Sarjeant, holds...  News Photo - Getty Images
Charleston’s wife at his grave

Four Guilty of Murder In Fast Food Restaurant Killing

BOSTON (AP) _ Four men were sentenced to life in prison for beating and stabbing a man to death while he waited for an order of take-out chicken.

Charleston Sarjeant, a 25-year-old musician and father of three, had stopped at a Tasty Chicken for a midnight snack on April 23 when he was hit from behind with a large radio. As he struggled with his attacker, up to a dozen young men rushed into the restaurant to punch, kick and stab him while his wife, Debra, and restaurant employees looked on, authorities said.

Steel bars and bullet-proof glass separated the workers from their customers in the restaurant in the city’s Dorchester section.

Lamar Johnson, 24, James Villaroel, 21, Adriano Barros, 19, and Aristides Duarte, 17, were convicted Thursday of first-degree murder. Three others face trial later.

Prosecutor James Larkin argued that the group went into the restaurant planning the attack and that they knew Villaroel had a knife.

″This was not a fight. It was a vicious attack on Charleston Sarjeant,″ Larkin said.

Villaroel said the stabbing ″just happened.

″I still don’t know why I did it.″

The restaurant owner, Shahid Butt, and police said Sarjeant was at the wrong place at the wrong time. They said he got caught in the middle of a dispute between Butt and group of young men he had reported to police for loitering.

Villaroel’s attorney, Michael Laurano, argued that Villaroel was guilty only of manslaughter because he was in a drunken haze at the time of the slaying and could not have planned to kill Sarjeant. He said he would appeal the conviction.

John Conwell, Johnson’s attorney, said his client had believed Villaroel was being attacked and rushed to his aid.

Conwell said Johnson kicked Sarjeant several times but did not stab him.

″None of the kicking caused this man’s death,″ Conwell told the jury.

Attorneys for Duarte and Barros maintained that their clients were innocent.

Judge Robert Mulligan, after meting out mandatory life sentences, also sentenced each of the four to three to five years in prison on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon.

″We’re not rejoicing. We’re not happy. We’ve lost. There’s nothing that will change that loss,″ said Sarjeant’s sister, Elizabeth Cardoza.

Random killing meant to send ‘message’ to restaurant owners

BOSTON — The brutal, random killing of a father of three waiting for take-out food apparently was carried out to intimidate the owners of the restaurant who earlier had complained to police about unruly youths.

Police arrested three men early Thursday following the fatal beating and stabbing of Charleston Sargeant at a Tasty Chicken outlet in the city’s Dorchester section. A fourth suspect was arrested early Friday, and police said more were being sought.

The restaurant owners recently had run-ins with youths in the area. Local merchants and friends of the victim speculated Thursday the gang meant to intimidate the owners by attacking customers.

‘Let’s close them down,’ one of the attackers said just before Sargeant was struck in the head with a portable radio-tape player, according to Edward Toomer, a friend who was with the victim at the time of the attack.

After the killing, the restaurant owners announced they would not reopen.

The suspects — identified as Lamar Johnson, 24, of Roxbury; Aristies Duarte, 17, and Adriano Barros, 18, both of Dorchester — all pleaded innocent to charges of first-degree murder in Municipal Court. Judge James Dolan ordered each held at the Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $100,00 cash bail, or $1 million surety.

A fourth suspect, James Villaroel, 21, of Dorchester, was arrested early Friday and faced arraignmentlater in the day.

Authorities said Johnson had been arrested 26 times previously on drug-related and assault charges, but had never served a day in jail.

Witnesses Thursday said Sargeant, 25, of Dorchester, was with his wife Debbie and Toomer in the restaurant waiting for their order just after midnight when a large group of young men smashed a bottle outside the restaurant and stormed inside.

Police said several men smashed the portable radio over Sargeant’s head. When he fell, others joined in, kicking, punching and stabbing the victim.

‘Help me, Debbie,’ were the last words Sargeant said as he lay dying on the floor of the restaurant. Sargeant, the father of three, was an Air Force veteran and businessman who recently opened a T-shirt shop in Mattapan. He was also a percussionist with a jazz-reggae band, Blade, which was just about to cut its first album.

Police said that while they had no clear motive for the vicious attack, they believe it was unplanned.

‘It seems like an unprovoked random, senseless act of violence,’ Boston Police Superintendent Paul Evans told a news conference.

‘If you’re looking for me to put some sense to it, I can’t. Robbery is not a motive. It’s a tragic incident of an individual who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ Evans said.

Witnesses in the Upham’s Corner neighborhood said a drug-dealing gang of youths known as ‘The Bulls’ has been terrorizing the area for months, and that the attack on Sargent was intended for the Tasty Chicken’s owners, who have barred the youths from the restaurant.

‘I think it was a vendetta against the restaurant. They (the gang members) had tried to sell drugs in front of the restaurant, and one of them was overheard just before the attack saying, ‘Let’s close the place down,” said Toomer.


On the night of April 22, 1992, Charleston Sarjeant, with his wife and a friend, Eddy Toomer, entered the Tasty Chicken restaurant in the Dorchester section of Boston and ordered food. While Toomer, Sarjeant, Sarjeant’s wife, and a customer named Terrance Hudson waited for their orders, a group of young men that included the defendants gathered on a traffic island in front of the restaurant. Without provocation, the defendant Villaroel threw a beer bottle against the front of the restaurant and shouted, “Let’s shut this place down,” or words to that effect, and moved toward the restaurant. The group, including the defendants Duarte and Barros, followed.

Villaroel, carrying a large portable radio, sometimes described as a “boom box,” entered the restaurant ahead of the others and struck Sarjeant on the head with the radio, using enough force to draw blood. Within seconds, ten to twelve men encircled Sarjeant and began beating, punching, and kicking him. Villaroel pulled out a knife and began stabbing Sarjeant. During the repeated stabbing the other attackers continued to punch, kick, and stomp Sarjeant about his head and face until he eventually lost consciousness. Police and medical personnel arrived promptly but were unable to save Sarjeant’s life.

An autopsy revealed seven or more areas of blunt trauma to the head and face, nine stab wounds to the neck, back and thighs, and one cutting wound. The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy concluded that Sarjeant had died as a result of multiple stab wounds with blunt head trauma.

At the trial, several witnesses identified Villaroel, Duarte, and Barros as having participated in the attack on Sarjeant.


The jury could have found that the defendant joined with the group of men who stormed inside the Tasty Chicken restaurant in response to a shout by a codefendant, James Villaroel-“Let’s shut him down”-and participated with the group in the fatal attack on the victim, Charleston Sarjeant.   Specifically, the jury could have reasonably found that the defendant kicked, punched, and pulled on Sarjeant for several minutes;  ignored the pleas of Sarjeant and his wife;  observed Villaroel produce a knife and saw Villaroel stab Sarjeant several times with the knife;  continued with the attack while Sarjeant was being stabbed;  kicked Sarjeant in the face wile he lay on the floor dying;  and finally fled the restaurant as the last attacker to leave.   Based on all the evidence and reasonable inferences, the jurors were warranted in concluding that the defendant was an active participant throughout the entire attack on Sarjeant, that he possessed the requisite knowledge and shared a malicious intent with the other joint venturers, and that the attack caused Sarjeant’s death.