WORCESTER (CBS) — Jose Melendez hid himself behind a door in Worcester District Court on Monday.

The 55-year-old has been charged with murder in the death of 49-year-old Sandra Hehir, a teacher’s aide at Claremont Academy Middle School in Worcester.

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Prosecutors say Melendez was linked to her death after DNA evidence taken from the crime scene at Sandra’s home matched an unidentified DNA profile from an unsolved Worcester rape back in 2000.

Sandra Hehir (WBZ-TV)

“Worcester Police went back to the 2000 rape case and took a look at the suspect in that case and that led to the defendant before you in this court José Melendez also known as Jose Alvarado,” Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Riddle said.

Melendez was arrested at an apartment building on Pleasant Street in Worcester over the weekend.

Jim Greene, Sandra’s nephew, spoke outside of court. He says Sandra, also known as Buffy, was a diehard athlete and loved by all her students and family. “He’s a coward to hide his face in court. It’s been a long six weeks. We thank friends and family and police in the school they were amazing,” Greene said.

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Prosecutors say Melendez has several aliases and long criminal record including three outstanding matters. His defense attorney says his client denies knowing Sandra or ever being in her apartment. But DNA evidence tells a different story. “His DNA profile was compared to the evidence of the crime scene about it was a match,” Riddle said.

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His defense attorney says his client pled not guilty because he doesn’t even know the woman. “He was held behind the door to prevent any suggested identifications that could be made of him by potential witnesses who claim they saw him that would be inappropriate,” defense attorney Michael Hussey said.

Greene just wants to see Buffy’s murderer brought to justice. “We are happy things happen as quickly as they did, we’re disappointed he didn’t show his face at some point we’re going to get justice for Buffy,” Greene said.

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Melendez is due back in court on April 13th for pretrial hearing.

Paul Burton