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3 face charges in attack on stranger

Three local men were arrested by Hopkinton and Westerly police Thursday and charged with felony assault, robbery and arson stemming from an incident on July 8.

Bertie C. Smith, 35, of Church Street, Richmond, Jacob A. Forand, 21, of Bowling Lane, Bradford, and Robert A. Pacheco, 55, of Woody Hill Road, Bradford, were charged with robbery, assault with the intent to commit robbery and conspiracy by Hopkinton, and with fourth-degree arson by Westerly.

The arrests were made as a result of an ongoing investigation conducted by detectives in both departments that began the day of the incident, according to Hopkinton Police Chief David Palmer.

At about 5:30 a.m. on July 8, Westerly police received a call from The Westerly Hospital about an assault victim being treated for injuries that included a broken nose, broken eye socket and detached retina. The victim was found on Main Street in Hopkinton and was brought to the hospital by a passing motorist who has not yet been identified, Palmer said.

The ensuing investigation led detectives to suspect Smith, Forand and Pacheco, who are believed to have met the victim in the Cumberland Farms parking lot on Friendship Street in Westerly around 1:30 a.m. on July 8.

“There were rumors going around that they were involved,” Palmer said, adding that the victim and the three men were strangers before their encounter in the parking lot that night.

According to a press release from the Hopkinton Police Department, the victim lost his keys inside his vehicle, at which point the three men offered to help him. After gaining access to the pick-up truck, one of the three drove the truck, a 2003 Chevrolet Silverado, while the other two followed in a second car to First Hopkinton Cemetery on Chase Hill Road.

The suspects allegedly beat the victim, kicking and punching him until he was unconscious before leaving him in the cemetery and taking off in his truck. Police said they drove the truck to Woody Hill Road, where they are believed to have purposely crashed it and set it on fire. The truck was completely destroyed by the fire.

After obtaining arrest warrants on Wednesday, police located and arrested Forand and Pacheco Thursday. The two were arraigned at the Hopkinton station, with bail posted at $15,000. Forand made bail, while Pacheco was transported to the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute, where he will remain until he is able to post the required amount.

Smith’s arrest warrant is still at the ACI, where he was already being held without bail for unrelated charges. Smith will be arraigned for the arson, robbery and assault charges on July 23.

Palmer described the victim’s current condition as much improved, though he was discharged from the hospital about 12 hours after he was dropped off.

“He’s doing well, but still recovering from the nose and eye injuries,” Palmer said.

Palmer credited the close work between officers in both departments as instrumental in the investigation and arrests.

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