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Man Pleads Innocent in Witness Death

October 1, 2002

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A man pleaded innocent Monday to murder charges in the shooting death of a 15-year-old girl who was about to testify against him in another homicide case.

Charles Pona, 19, was the third man charged in the May 2000 killing of Jennifer Rivera, who was the state’s star witness to the murder of a 17-year-old.

Pona was convicted of Hector Feliciano’s 1999 slaying, due in part to Jennifer’s taped testimony. He is serving a life sentence.

Pona was arraigned Monday on murder and other charges, and ordered held without bail.

Jennifer was playing outside her home when she was shot in the head by Pona’s half brother. The half brother and another man have pleaded guilty to murder charges.

One of the men has said Pona ordered Jennifer’s killing. She was prepared to testify that she saw Pona leaving the scene of the slaying.

The girl’s mother has sued the state’s attorney general and the city police department for failing to provide protection for the young witness.

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