Leominster-based tattoo artist arrested for sexually assaulting customer

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LEOMINSTER — On Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, at 4:28 p.m., Officer Tyler Labell of the Leominster Police Department was dispatched to the lobby of the police station to speak with Dasia Mercer about a recent sexual assault incident alleged to have taken place at a local tattoo parlor.

(The account and quotations in the article were taken from the printed Personnel Narratives of Officer Labell and Detective John Bouchard.)

After meeting Mercer in the lobby, Officer Labell invited her into the intake room to continue their conversation.

“In the intake room, I asked Ms. Mercer to tell me what had happened,” Officer Labell said. “Ms. Mercer stated that she had gotten tattoos from a male that she knows as ‘Junior’ at 66 West Street in Leominster. Ms. Mercer stated that Junior was employed by Tattoos 101, but bought it a few months ago and now it’s called Junior’s Tattoos. Ms. Mercer stated that she does not know Junior’s phone number because she books through his Facebook messenger. Ms. Mercer showed me Junior’s Facebook page, [which is listed] as Junior Benevides. Ms. Mercer does not have any other information about Junior.”  

Mercer said she went to get a tattoo on her thigh from Junior on Tuesday, Oct. 10. She added that this was not the first time Junior tattooed her.

“Ms. Mercer stated that she believed it was a safe space because she has gotten tattoos from Junior in the past,” Officer Labell said. “Ms. Mercer stated that when he was doing the tattoo, Junior put his ring finger and pinky finger on her. I asked what she meant by ‘on her’ and she responded ‘on my area,’ and pointed to her private area. I asked if there was any penetration and she said ‘no.’ Ms. Mercer stated her pants were down to get the tattoo but was still wearing underwear. Ms. Mercer believed his hand was there for a while. Ms. Mercer stated he finally moved his hand and said ‘sorry, I didn’t realize it was there.’ At this time, Ms. Mercer thought it may have been accidental. Ms. Mercer stated that the tattoo made her begin to break out. Ms. Mercer stated that Junior rubbed some lotion on it and Ms. Mercer then made a joke, [saying], ‘I got a beautiful piece and a massage, what a great service.’ Junior then stated, ‘we can extend your service to something more fun.’ Ms. Mercer said ‘no, no, I’m just here for the tattoo.’ Junior then stated, ‘the offer is still on the table.’ Ms. Mercer stated she could feel the vibe now, that he was coming onto her, but told herself to push through until the tattoo was finished.”

As he finished the tattoo, Junior went to put some ointment on it when he said he noticed some ink had splashed on Mercer’s leg. At first glance, Mercer didn’t see anything, but when she looked harder, she saw “an extremely small dot of ink on her inner, inner left thigh.”

Ms. Mercer told Junior that she would wash it off when she went home.

“Junior then grabbed a paper towel and wet it with the cleaning product, and went down there and started to slowly rub it. ‘It’ meaning her vagina,” Officer Labell said. “Ms. Mercer stated that she froze up at this point. Ms. Mercer thought to herself, ‘Oh my God, this isn’t happening again.’ Junior then stated, ‘we can have some fun.’ Ms. Mercer then stated, ‘nope, I’m all set, I just came for the tattoo. I don’t want to do anything else with you.’”

According to Mercer, Junior responded saying “come on, my hands were already there.”

Ms. Mercer then stated that she jumped up from the table to leave, but Junior told her that he still needed to wrap the tattoo.

Ms. Mercer said that since her phone was dead and she was unfamiliar with the area, she let Junior wrap it in order avoid any further issues.

“After it was wrapped, Ms. Mercer tried to leave again,” Officer Labell said. “Junior then stated that he needed to tape it. After it was taped, Ms. Mercer went to pay him because she had already known the price. At this time, Junior tried to hug her. Ms. Mercer refused the hug, and handed the money to Junior.”

Ms. Mercer began to leave, descending the front stairs of the tattoo parlor. When she went to close the door behind her, she noticed that Junior had followed her outside.

“Ms. Mercer stated she was still shaking from what had just happened,” Officer Labell said. “While Ms. Mercer was calling for her ride, Junior was trying to talk to her, stating he ‘can’t wait’ for their next session. Junior tried to give her another hug, and she told him no again because she was uncomfortable with the situation. Junior then offered to give her a ride, but she told him that her ride was already on the way.”

Mercer brought her ink-stained underwear in for evidence.   

Since Mercer only knew Junior through Facebook, Officer Labell found the profile she had been corresponding with.

“On Junior’s Facebook, it has a name of Haroldo Benevides Jr. (11/09/1977),” Officer Labell explained. Later adding, “I was unable to identify anyone with those credentials or the name Junior.”

At 5:30 p.m., Officer Labell went to 66 West Street to speak with Junior, but no one was there at the time.

“I did not have a phone number and was also unable to call Junior,” Officer Labell said.

Officer Labell forwarded the incident report to the Detective Bureau for further investigation.

At 11:30 a.m. the following day, Detective John Bouchard went to Leominster City Hall to “learn more about ‘Junior’” and find out if “Junior’s Tattoo” was a legitimate, licensed business.

“According to Officer Labell, ‘Junior’ purchased this business (formerly known as Tattoo 101) a ‘few months ago.’ According to Officer Labell, ‘Junior’ was a previous employee of Tattoo 101 and ended up buying the business,” Det. Bouchard said. “According to the Leominster City Clerk’s Office, they still had the business called Tattoo 101 on file (active business certificate as of 06-18-2021) and listed the owner as Mr. Sean Sullivan (the business certificate expires on 06-18-2025). It appears that ‘Junior’ did not update the file with the Leominster City Clerk’s Office.”

Det. Bouchard went to the Leominster Board of Health, which inspects tattoo parlors, to see if they had any updates on Tattoo 101’s new owner, “Junior.”

“Upon my arrival, I made contact with Ms. Stacy Ciccolini (Leominster Board of Health). Ms. Ciccolini was able to find the file and I identified the owner as Mr. Jose Haroldo Benevides Monteiro (DOB 11-09-1977), with a last known address of 52 Hartford Street, 2nd floor, in the City of Fitchburg,” Det. Bouchard said. “On the various board of health forms, Mr. Jose Benevides Monteiro refers to himself as ‘Jose Benevides,’ ‘Jose Benevides Monteiro,’ ‘Harold Benevides,’ (Haroldo is Jose’s middle name) and ‘Jose Monteiro.’

Mugshot of Jose Benevides (aka “Junior”)

According to court documents, the legal name of the man Det. Bouchard identified is Jose Benevides Jr.

Benevides, 45, was born in Brazil and is presently a resident of 52 Hartford Street, Apt. 2, in Fitchburg. According to police, he’s separated from his wife and works as an “artist.”

Jose Benevides' mugshot (Courtesy/Leominster Police Department)
Jose Benevides’ mugshot

While Det. Bouchard was speaking with Ciccolini, she said that various City Hall employees – including some in the mayor’s office – were already aware of the allegations due to a post Mercer made on a Facebook group called “Discussing Fitchburg Now.”

“While reviewing the Facebook post, Ms. Mercer describes the entire alleged incident to the public, as mentioned in Officer Labell’s police report, calling herself a victim of ‘SA’ (sexual assault). Ms. Mercer indicated that ‘Junior’ had done all her tattoos in the past and alleged she never thought she would end up ‘in this situation,’” Det. Bouchard said. “She ends the post by writing, ‘moral of the story, please, if you or anyone you know is planning on going there, I beg you not to. This is a man who is in his late 40s and I’m an 18-year-old girl which he knows because I went to him for my first tattoo after turning 18 with my older sister. He is not someone you can trust and I promise you the work – as beautiful as it is – isn’t worth losing your dignity and sanity over.”

At 10:00 a.m. on Oct. 17, after Det. Bouchard conferred with the Worcester District Attorney’s Office, it was determined that there was probable cause to charge Monteiro with two counts of indecent assault and battery, for “allegedly touching” the outside vaginal area of Mercer against her will on two occasions while giving her a tattoo on Monday, October 9.

“I was instructed to ascertain from Ms. Mercer who she first disclosed the alleged sexual assault to,” Det. Bouchard said. “I made telephonic contact with Ms. Mercer. Ms. Mercer stated that her sister [name redacted] was the first person she disclosed the alleged incident to. Ms. Mercer stated that her sister resides in the City of Chicago, Illinois. Ms. Mercer stated that it was after she spoke to her sister that she attempted to disclose the incident on a Leominster Facebook page, which was shut down within five minutes, therefore, she posted the incident on the Discussing Fitchburg page.”

Det. Bouchard asked Mercer to forward a copy of the Facebook message exchange she had with Monteiro wherein she booked her tattoo appointment.

“Ms. Mercer eventually emailed me the copies of the messages which are attached to this report,” Det. Bouchard said. “I did inquire with Ms. Mercer as to the delay in reporting the incident to the police four days later. Ms. Mercer stated that due to medical reasons she cannot operate a motor vehicle, further stating that her mother was working double shifts, so finding a ride to the Leominster Police Department was a challenge. Ms. Mercer stated that her mother’s fiancé eventually was able to give her a ride to the Leominster Police Department on Friday.”

At 10:06 a.m., Det. Bouchard spoke with Mercer’s sister (the first complaint witness). She provided her “pertinent information” to the detective, adding that she was born and raised in Fitchburg and recently relocated to Chicago.

“[Mercer’s sister] did corroborate that her sister Ms. Mercer did initially send her a text message after the alleged incident, however she was at work, therefore she called her sister back at a later time,” recounted Det. Bouchard. “[She] did also corroborate Ms. Mercer’s statements that Mercer did disclose the alleged sexual assault to her and appeared very upset.”

Mercer’s sister told Det. Bouchard that she and her sister were regular customers of “Junior” and “had been to him many times.”

“I asked [Mercer’s sister] to forward a screen shot of the text messages sent to her by her sister and also an email describing the conversation with her sister that led to the disclosure,” Det. Bouchard said. “Due to the fact [that she] resides in Chicago, I am unable to physically meet with her at this time. I will attempt to make contact with Mr. Benevides.”

At 3:22 p.m. that day, Benevides was arrested at his residence located at 52 Hartford Street, Apt. #2, in Fitchburg. He was charged with two felony counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 years of age or older.

Benevides’ bail was set at $1,540.

He was arraigned in Leominster District Court on Oct. 18, after which he was released on his own personal recognizance under the condition that he stay away from Mercer and her family.

Benevides is scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 30 for a pretrial conference hearing.

Disclaimer: If you are wondering why the incident in this story was from October, that’s because I had to file FOIA request(s) to get the court documents for the incident. FOIAs are time consuming.

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