Man arrested in California after shooting deaths of woman and 11-year-old daughter in Worcester

Authorities announced Dejan Dante Belnavis, the man wanted in the shooting deaths of Chasity Nunez and her 11-year-old daughter, Zella, in Worcester, has been taken into custody in California.

Law Enforcement officials say Belnavis was picked up by U.S. Marshals in San Diego on Monday evening. Massachusetts State Police VFAS, Worcester Police, and US Marshals worked together to make the arrest.

“This is a great example of when local law enforcement, federal partners, and state police come together for a successful conclusion,” Worcester’s Interim Police Chief Paul Saucier said.

Monday morning the United States Marshals Service doubled the reward from $5,000 to $10,000 for information leading to the capture of Belnavis.

Worcester District Attorney’s office announced during a press conference that Belnavis will be charged with the murders of the young mother and daughter who were found shot in a bullet-riddled SUV in Worcester on Tuesday, March 5.

A second suspect in the murders, 28-year-old Karel Mangual, was arraigned Thursday on charges of armed assault to murder and carrying a firearm without a license. However, officials announced Mangual, who is currently being held without bail, will be back in court to upgrade those charges to murder.

Both Belnavis and Mangual have lengthy criminal histories, court documents showed.

‘Destined for success’: Mom killed in Worcester was decorated National Guard member, healthcare pro

The bodies of Chasity and Zella were discovered in a white SUV that was parked in the area of Englewood Avenue in the Columbus Park neighborhood of Worcester. Court documents indicated that neither was breathing or had a pulse when police arrived.

Sgt. Sean Murtha, Public Information Officer for the Worcester Police Department, said a “fairly high number” of shots were fired into the vehicle.

Chastity Nuñez was a member of the Connecticut National Guard and received honors like the National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Achievement Medal. Nuñez also served as a Patient Safety & Clinical Quality Program Coordinator at MIT Health since July 2023.

“Chasity was beloved by her fellow Soldiers in the 142nd Medical Company. Her wit, social nature, and dedication to duty made her one of the best Soldiers in our unit,” National Guard spokesperson Major David Pytlik told Boston 25. “I cannot begin to make sense of why this happened and why her family, friends, co-workers and fellow Soldiers have been robbed of her and Zella. What we can, and must do now, is support one another as we grieve, process this profound loss and honor their memory.”

Zella was a student at Worcester Public Schools.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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