AUGUSTA — Irineu B. Goncalves told his ex-girlfriend he was going to kill her before pinning her down in the parking lot of a Waterville hotel, punching and strangling her until she lost consciousness.

That’s according to the Vassalboro woman, who testified in court Tuesday about being brutally attack by Goncalves, who is her ex-boyfriend and the father of their two children.

Irineu Goncalves Waterville Police Department photo

Goncalves, 35, of Revere, Massachusetts, is on trial for charges of attempted murder, domestic violence criminal threatening, and assault on an officer in connection with the June 14, 2023, incident in which he allegedly strangled the woman. He also allegedly bit, punched, and tried to take the gun of a Waterville police officer who he fought with after being pulled off the woman.

The woman testified Tuesday that before she lost consciousness with the hands of Goncalves around her neck, she thought he was going to kill her and she prayed to God for help even as she thought she may never see her kids again. The woman is not being named because the Kennebec Journal does not identify victims of alleged domestic violence without their permission.

“I couldn’t breathe at all — at first he was pushing my neck, then pulling, like he was trying to rip my throat out,” the woman testified, sometimes fighting back tears to speak. “After he beat me, he jumped over me and pinned me down into the pavement and put his knees on my chest and was strangling me as hard as he could, just staring into my eyes. My head felt like it was going to explode.”

The trial started Tuesday with Goncalves pleading guilty to two of the charges against him, in an apparent plea deal in which state prosecutors agreed to dismiss two other charges. He pleaded guilty to a Class B charge of aggravated assault, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the lesser charge of violating condition of release. Separate charges of domestic violence aggravated assault and domestic violence terrorizing were also dismissed.


Defense attorney Roger Brunelle said Goncalves pled guilty to those charges to show he’s taking responsibility for his actions during the “terrible event that occurred” on June 14.

That left the most serious charge —  the Class A offense of attempted murder, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine — as well as domestic violence criminal threatening and assault on an officer, to be the remaining counts to go to trial. The proceeding is a bench trial, meaning that instead of a jury, the case will be decided by Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy.

Brunelle said in his opening statement that Goncalves was in such an extreme mental state after his ex-girlfriend told him he would never let him see his kids again.

Goncalves worked as a trucker whose route took him to Maine, where he would stay in Waterville. Brunelle said the incident took place after the woman had finished playing in a pickup soccer game at Colby College and saw Goncalves walking alongside the road. She stopped to ask what he was doing and gave him a ride back to his hotel, the Holiday Inn Express on Main Street in Waterville, where they had a disagreement. Brunelle said the woman asked Goncalves to get out of the car and he did, and she then backed her car into him, although he was not injured.

The woman testified that she did not back her car into him and, instead, had simply put the car in gear and took her foot off the brake, to convince him to close her car door so she could leave. She testified that a no-contact order was in place barring Goncalves from contacting her. She said he had called her and pleaded with her to get back together with him, and not to break up their family. She said she thought he was bad for their children, because he couldn’t control himself.

As the two argued in the parking lot, Brunelle said that Goncalves entered into a trance-like state, having no recollection of his actions.


Assistant District Attorney Shannon Flaherty said before he attacked her, Goncalves told the woman, “I’m going to kill you this time, now I’m going to kill you.” Then he allegedly attacked her while she was seat-belted into her car and initially unable to escape. By sheer will, Flaherty said, the woman opened her car door and slid out, but he quickly got on top of her, continuing the assault while she was on her back on the parking lot pavement.

Rescue workers and police said when they heard the woman struggling to breathe, they feared she was close to death.

Waterville police Officer Jake Whitley testified that when he arrived on the scene Goncalves had both his hands around the woman’s throat and ignored his commands to get off her. He said Goncalves bit his hand and wouldn’t stop fighting with him, even after Whitley punched him in the face. He said at one point Goncalves went for his gun, which he prevented him from being able to do by pulling his holster up against his body so the gun couldn’t be pulled out.

Another officer arrived and used pepper spray on Goncalves, but the two officers were still unable to handcuff him, so Whitley used his stun gun twice to deliver electric shocks to Goncalves, also without result. A third officer arrived, Goncalves was again pepper-sprayed, and the three officers were able to subdue Goncalves and put him in handcuffs.

Goncalves was in such an extreme mental state that it took all of that for him to be subdued, Brunelle noted. Brunelle said his client was incapable during the incident of having rationale “intent” to kill his ex-girlfriend and assault police.

“Evidence will show Mr. Goncalves did not have the state of mind to form intent,” Brunelle said.

The woman said she suffered a broken nose, split lips, bruising on her face, neck and arm including a thumb-sized bruise on her neck. Her skin was rubbed off part of her throat, and broken blood vessels in her eyes, she said, was due to the pressure he applied while strangling her.

She said she was in pain for months and still suffers vertigo from the attack.

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