Man gets life in prison for fatal beating of 78-year-old man

A Providence man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 78-year-old man during a 2013 home invasion.

Leopoldo Belen, who was already serving a life sentence for a separate crime, was sentenced Thursday in Providence County Superior Court, according to Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha.

Prosecutors say Belen and co-defendant Joel Valdez broke into a third-floor apartment in Providence in October 2013 and had assaulted a resident when Delor “Dean” Cabral, the owner of the apartment, rushed upstairs to respond. As Cabral entered the apartment, prosecutors said, Belen and Valdez threw him to the floor and stomped on him before fleeing.

The attack caused significant trauma to the head and neck of Cabral, who died nearly a month later.

Valdez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2015 and is awaiting sentencing. Belen was scheduled to go to trial later this month but changed his plea to no contest, meaning he accepts the charge without admitting guilt.

A lawyer for Belen could not be reached for comment.

Neronha said he hopes the sentence brings “a measure of closure” to Cabral's family.

“To hear the account of this crime is to be overwhelmed by its senselessness and life-extinguishing impact on a man who had lived life well and at the time of his death was coming to the assistance of others,” he said in a statement.

Another man, Wilbert Richardson, spent 19 months in prison for Cabral's murder before his charges were dismissed in 2015. Richardson later sued the Providence Police Department, saying he was at a funeral at the time of Cabral's attack and that there was no DNA to match him to the scene. He went on to settle with the police department for $67,500.

Belen was previously sentenced to life in prison in 2017 after a jury convicted him on four counts of first-degree sexual assault. In that case, prosecutors say Belen violently assaulted his then-girlfriend after becoming angry because she smoked their last cigarette.


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