Darren Caswell, 44, of Middleboro was arraigned Monday in Brockton Superior Court on a single count of murder in the death of Matthew Cote of Kingston, a flooring contractor who once lived in Middleboro.
Michael Cote braced himself as the thin man, flanked by court officers, shuffled into the courtroom.
For six years, Cote wondered who killed his 26-year-old son — then set the young man’s body and truck on fire along a remote dirt access road in Carver.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Cote said.
What Cote saw Monday was a retired prison guard, a thin-faced man dressed in a blue shirt, tails hanging out, standing before a judge.
Darren Caswell, 44, of Middleboro, was arraigned Monday in Brockton Superior Court on a single count of murder in the death of Matthew Cote of Kingston, a flooring contractor who once lived in Middleboro.
Judge Thomas A. Connors ordered Caswell held without bail.
Cote was found dead in the back seat of his burnt truck in August 2003 by two fishermen on a remote access road about a quarter mile off Tremont Street in Carver.
Assistant District Attorney John Bradley told the judge an autopsy found Cote was stabbed to death, likely with a screwdriver, and suffered two cracked ribs. Cote had been dead before his truck — and his body — was set ablaze, likely with gasoline.
Bradley told the court the victim had gone to the Carver home of Russell Freitas, a quadriplegic, the afternoon of Aug. 13, 2003, at 3 p.m. to buy 100 OxyContin pills. He said Freitas was prescribed the pills because of his condition but sold the drugs instead.
Cote was never seen alive again.
Three days later, his body was found in his burnt truck.
Bradley told the court telephone records reveal Freitas — who has since died — called Caswell before Cote arrived in Carver and then later that day.
A witness told police he had gotten a call from Freitas, asking him to drive him to the Middleboro-Carver area, Bradley said.
During the ride, the witness said, Freitas was constantly on the phone.
At one point, Bradley said, he “made a cryptic, perhaps coded remark: ‘I like duck. Just make sure it’s well done.’”
While driving in the area, not far from where Cote’s body would later be found, the defendant was seen coming out of the woods, dressed in black, and they picked him up, Bradley said.
The witness, whose name was not released, told police Caswell said he needed a ride, Bradley said.
Bradley said the defendant also told investigators at one point during the probe “that was not how it was supposed to happen. I didn’t know ahead of time this kid was going to be killed.”
Caswell’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, said there is no evidence linking his client to the killing and argued bail should be set. He said his client has talked with police in the past, knew there was a chance in recent months charges would be lodged and never fled.
Reddington said his client kept working as a correction officer until his recent retirement.
As the prosecutor laid out the case and the defense attorney tried to distance his client from the slaying, Michael Cote sat in the courtroom watching and listening with his family.
“You live with this every day, and now to put a face to this brutal crime is just a relief, of sorts,” Cote said.
In the six years since Matthew Cote was killed, his father has worked to keep the case on the front burner.
He contacted “America’s Most Wanted” television show, convincing them to feature the search for his son’s killer on its Web site. He talked to reporters throughout the region, hoping someone in the area would come forward with the key to arrest the killer or killers.
“It was to just keep it in the limelight,” he said. “If it is not in front of you, it goes cold.”
“I knew it would happen one day,” he said. “I had faith in the police. ... I knew someone had to pay for this crime.”
Then, Friday evening he got the call from police: someone would be charged in the slaying. Then, while at dinner at a Dennis restaurant, he got a second call. Someone was under arrest. “It was the best piece of steak I ever had,” Cote said.
Maureen Boyle can be reached at email@example.com.