PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A 21-year-old man charged with abducting and killing two boys whose disappearances terrified the city was ordered held without bail at a state mental health facility today pending a bail hearing.
William Sarmento of Providence appeared boyish and confused as he was led handcuffed into District Court for arraignment.
Judge Francis Darigan entered no plea on behalf of Sarmento to two felony counts of murder pending transfer of the charges to the Superior Court level. He ordered Sarmento held without bail at a state psychiatric facility until a Jan. 8 bail hearing.
Sarmento, described by neighbors as a peculiar person who stabbed plywood and trees with a machete or a knife, wore dark blue pants, a blue sweatshirt, black vest and untied white sneakers. His hair appeared uncombed and he had a confused look in his eyes.
Sarmento, who was represented by a public defender, spoke only once to tell the judge he cannot afford a lawyer. The judge told Sarmento he will be represented by a court-appointed attorney.
Prosecutor James Ryan asked that Sarmento be held without bail because of 'the heinous nature' of the killings, his attempts to elude police and his 'admitted involvement' in the crimes.
Sarmento is charged in the deaths of Frankie Barnes, 10, and Jason Wolf, 6, both of Providence.
Authorities arrested Sarmento about 1 p.m., Tuesday in a Manton Avenue tenement house, where police said he had been hiding for 12 hours. A neighborhood resident tipped authorities after recognizing Sarmento's picture on a television newscast.
During questioning by investigators, Police Chief Anthony Mancuso said Sarmento gave 'damaging statements indicating his involvement' in both slayings.
'He has confessed. We won't speculate about his motive in the (alleged) crimes,' the chief told a news conference.
Sarmento did not resist arrest and was not armed, Mancuso said.
Barnes and Wolf disappeared from their neighborhoods Nov. 4 and Dec. 14, respectively. Their bodies were found over the past 10 days, Wolf's near a pond in Providence and Barnes' in a pond in neighboring Cranston, the state's two largest cities.
Mancuso said the 'first break' in the case came Saturday, when he received a letter containing information that led to the discovery of Barnes's body in Tongue Pond near the former Narragansett beer brewery.
Mancuso declined to discuss what the letter said, but a report in The Providence Journal-Bulletin today quoted unnamed officials as saying the letter's envelope bore the imprint of a man's name.
The Journal-Bulletin report said police questioned the man Sunday and he told them he had frequent disputes with Sarmento, some over a woman they both had dated. The woman told police the writing on the letter was Sarmento's, officials said.
Investigators searched Sarmento's home in the city's Olneyville section Monday night and found enough evidence to obtain arrest warrants the following morning, Mancuso said.
The Journal-Bulletin reportquoted officials as saying the evidence included drafts of the letter sent to Mancuso. Sarmento is believed to have written the name of the man he was feuding with on a draft, and it became impressed on the envelope the chief received, officials said.
More than 100 law enforcement officials searched for Sarmento, who police said lived with his parents in the same section of the city that Wolf lived in.
Sarmento has been convicted twice in the past three years for assault and was wanted for allegedly carrying a sawed-off rifle, police said.
'When (Sarmento and his parents) moved here three or four years ago ... he used to go out there with a knife and stab the plywood' of a house that has since been torn down, William Perry, Sarmento's next-door neighbor on Valley Street, said.
He would use a 'big machete or sometimes a smaller one' to stab plywood and use a knife to stab a tree, Perry said.
An autopsy revealed Barnes had been stabbed repeatedly then tossed into Tongue Pond alive, only to drown.
Wolf disappeared after running to get his family's mail. His body was discovered Dec. 21 near a pond close to Barnes's neighborhood. An autopsy found Wolf was bludgeoned to death.
'When they prove that he is the one, then I'll feel 100 percent better,' said Frankie Barnes' mother, Barbara Duru. 'But I'm for hard-core evidence or a hard-core decision.'
Asked if she could ever forgive her son's killer, Duru replied: 'Hang the man. Hang him until he's dead. After he's dead, I'll forgive him.'