A Florida doctor accused of shooting and killing a Boston man on a Vermont roadway in late 2019 denied the accusations against him during a court hearing Monday.
Dr. Jozsef Piri, 49, of Naples, Florida, appeared for a Vermont Superior Court virtual hearing via video link from jail. Piri is facing a second-degree murder charge in the killing of 44-year-old Roberto Fonseca-Rivera of Boston in November of 2019.
"We'll enter a plea of not guilty," defense attorney Adam Hescock told Judge John Treadwell, who was handling the Windham County Case virtually from a courtroom in Windsor County.
Fonseca-Rivera was found dead behind the steering wheel of his produce delivery truck on Route 103 in Rockingham. He was between stops to Vermont restaurants when he was shot in the chin through the windshield, investigators said.
In an affidavit of probable cause filed with the court, Vermont State Police detectives wrote a medical examiner explained that yes, after he was shot, the victim would have had time to pull over and park the truck before passing out.
"I always just saw him to be a very approachable individual that was caring," Fonseca-Rivera's boss, Ted Katsiroubas, of the produce wholesaler Katsiroubas Bros., told NECN and NBC10 Boston in November of 2019.
The lengthy affidavit says surveillance video puts Piri's vehicle directly in front of the produce truck at the time of the gunfire.
While a Windham County prosecutor declined to characterize the killing as a case of road rage, that is what court documents seem to suggest — describing Piri, then a Connecticut resident, as being on-edge the day of the fatal shooting.
According to detectives, Piri was exhausted from struggling to sleep, was stressed over costly repairs to his second home in Vermont, was running late, then was struggling with travel hassles like detours and a credit card that could not be read at a car wash.
While the affidavit shows the suspect would claim in one of several police interviews that nothing remarkable happened on his drive home, Vermont State Police detectives said the doctor did have a place for a handgun next to his seat and could lower a rear window of his pickup while driving ahead of Fonseca-Rivera.
When detectives seized a gun from Piri, like the kind that shot at the produce driver, they said it was missing its barrel and slide, something inconsistent with how police noted the physician otherwise took meticulous care of his firearms.
According to police paperwork, Fonseca-Rivera was on the phone with a friend shortly before the shooting. The buddy would tell investigators Fonseca-Rivera wondered why the vehicle in front of him was speeding up and slowing down.
Then, their call would suddenly get cut off following a loud noise.
Detectives also said in their interview with Piri that he claimed not to know anything about what happened on the road the day of the shooting. Yet, web searches of news articles and attempts to clear digital fingerprints show otherwise, police wrote in the affidavit of probable cause.
"This was a complex investigation," Deputy Windham County State's Attorney Steve Brown said in reference to the number of interviews, search warrants, subpoenas, and hours of digital evidence required to identify Piri as the suspect.
Brown said he spoke with some of Fonseca-Rivera's loved ones Monday.
"The family members are incredibly strong," Brown told NECN and NBC10 Boston following Monday's arraignment. "They are looking forward to seeing this process through and seeing that justice is served in this case."
Following the not guilty plea from Piri, the court said the suspect would have to hand over any guns and passports to authorities before he could qualify for $250,000 cash bail.