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Man Convicted of Murder in R.I.

July 21, 2000

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A man was convicted of murder Thursday despite the slaying of the key prosecution witness on the eve of trial.

Charles Pona was convicted of last August’s shooting death of Hector Feliciano, which police described as drug-related.

The key witness, Jennifer Rivera, 15, was shot outside her home in May, but the jury was able to hear her on tape saying Pona was the man she saw fleeing the scene of the murder.

The identification was crucial in what was otherwise a circumstantial case. During their deliberations, the jurors, who were told Jennifer had been killed, asked to hear the girl’s testimony played again.

``What’s most important today is that Jennifer Rivera’s murder did not allow the killer of Hector Feliciano to go unpunished,″ Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse said on the courthouse steps. ``Her voice rang out loud and clear in the courtroom.″

Pona’s attorneys did not speak with reporters when leaving the courthouse and did not return calls to their offices. Their motion for a new trial will be heard July 26.

Nobody has been charged with Jennifer’s slaying.

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