MA: Slain dancer had said she worried for her safety

Sheila Santos moved from Brazil in 2006

Sheila Santos moved from Brazil in 2006

By John R. Ellement and Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / October 3, 2009

EVERETT – Police questioned a man last night in connection with the slaying of a 24-year-old exotic dancer outside her apartment early yesterday morning.

Sheila Santos was attacked and killed outside her Main Street apartment building shortly after she finished work at Club Alex’s at around 1:15 a.m. Her bloody body was found on the cement stairs leading to the rear door of her multiunit apartment building, just steps away from her black Honda CR-V, according to neighbors and police.

There were no details last night on the man being questioned.

Santos had grown increasingly worried in recent weeks that someone was following her home from her job at the Stoughton strip club, her sister, Ana Paola Santos, said yesterday after she rushed to the police station last night.

“Last week, she told me she didn’t want to work there anymore, because she was scared,’’ said Ana Santos, 25, wiping tears as she sat yesterday evening at her kitchen table in her Malden high-rise apartment. “She told me she couldn’t wait to change apartments.’’

Sheila Santos lived alone and would have turned 25 this month, her sister said.

At a press conference outside the police station, Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. said Santos was killed sometime between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m.

He would not say what the motive for the killing was, but said Santos did not have any active restraining orders. He also would not say whether there was a link between the killing and her work as a stripper. She worked at King Arthur’s in Chelsea before the Stoughton nightspot.

“I don’t want to characterize what we are thinking at this time,’’ Leone said. “The investigation is narrowing as we speak, and we fully expect it to be a successful homicide investigation.’’

Ana Paola Santos, also a dancer at Club Alex’s, said she last spoke to her sister in the parking lot of the Stoughton club as she was leaving and Sheila was arriving for work, at about 1 a.m. yesterday.

“I drove to her car and we lowered our windows,’’ Santos said. “She made a joke, and that’s the last time I saw her. She was smiling. She always had a bright smile and was always laughing.’’

Sheila Santos, the youngest of five children, arrived in the United States three years ago, from Mirante Da Serra, Brazil, following her two older sisters here. She passed her days with gym workouts, visits to salons, and making meals for her sisters and friends. Her specialty was potato salad and fish.

When she was unable to visit her friends, she reached out by computer, chatting on Facebook and other sites for hours. That was how she kept in touch with her family in Brazil.

Yesterday, Rita Alvarenga, the victim’s best friend, wrapped her arm around Ana Paola Santos as she leafed through a photo album containing pictures of Sheila, sporting a wide smile in every photograph.

“She called me every day to tell me that she loved me,’’ said Alvarenga. “That’s how she was, a very caring and affectionate person. She made friends easily, and people loved being around her.’’

Sheila Santos did not have any enemies, Alvarenga said. But she added that she and Santos had decided to move in together in November because Santos feared for her safety at her Everett apartment. Yesterday, they were going to make a deposit on another apartment.

“She was scared of something or someone,’’ Alvarenga said. “I didn’t know what it was, but she was scared.’’

Sheila Santos had an active social life in the local Brazilian community. She loved to go to clubs where Brazilian bands were playing. On Sunday, she went to the Plaza Garibaldi Lounge in Revere to catch a popular Brazilian musical act.

Santos had a boyfriend, but broke up with him about nine months ago and had not been in a relationship since, according to her sister.

Santos’s body was discovered at 4:32 a.m. by the building’s superintendent, Leone said.

Neighbors described a grisly scene in the rear parking lot behind the apartment building, which remained undisturbed for several hours as police collected evidence.

Santos lay face down at the rear entryway with her left arm above her head, as though she were reaching for the door. Covered in blood, the woman was fully dressed and had on a pink shirt and dark pants. She only had on her left boot, however, neighbors said.

“It was completely bloody,’’ said one neighbor who observed Santos’s body but did not want her name published because of the ongoing investigation. “It was bad.’’

The rear parking lot is well lit at night, neighbors said. Two floodlights and a light above the rear entryway were visible yesterday.

Alvarenga said she received a phone call from a friend who had passed Santos’s apartment and noticed police and television crews in front. She said she called Santos’s cellphone several times before she and Ana Paola Santos rushed to the apartment.

The operator of a small Brazilian convenience store on Main Street said he saw Santos on Thursday. The man, who did not want to give his name, said that there was nothing out of the ordinary about her.

“She was happy,’’ he said.

The man also said that Santos had him send money home to her family in Brazil.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Everett Police Department at 617-394-2356.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

See original at Boston Globe

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