Mother, blind 11-year-old daughter killed when gunmen fire at their parked SUV


Dejan Belnavis, left, was charged in the deaths of Chasity Nunez and her 11-year-old daughter, Zella, right. (Victims photos from their obituary; Belnavis' mug shot from the Worcester Police Department)

Dejan Belnavis, left, was charged in the deaths of Chasity Nunez and her 11-year-old daughter, Zella, right. (Victims photos from their obituary; Belnavis’ mug shot from Massachusetts State Police)

A man faces murder charges in the deaths of a mother and her blind 11-year-old daughter shot while sitting in a parked SUV in Massachusetts.

Dejan Belnavis, 27, was charged in the deaths of Chasity Nuñez, 27, and her 11-year-old daughter, Zella. Belnavis was taken into custody in San Diego, California, after a traffic stop. He was the second person arrested in the case.

Mother and daughter were killed on March 5, officials said. Worcester police were dispatched to Lisbon Street at Englewood Avenue at 3:09 p.m. for a report of gunshots. Once there, officers found a parked vehicle with the victims inside. They had suffered serious injuries and were taken to a hospital, where they died.

Hundreds of mourners paid their respects to the victims at their funerals on Thursday.

“Terrible,” “tragic,” “pure devastation,” some said, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.

Belnavis, who’s being held in custody in California, was expected to be extradited to Massachusetts soon to face charges, according to the Worcester District Attorney’s Office, the news site reported. Citing authorities, the Telegram & Gazette said he has a criminal record and had ties to gangs.

Nunez was a Specialist E4 in the Connecticut National Guard.

“Our hearts are broken because we lost Specialist Chasity Nunez to senseless violence,” Connecticut National Guard Public Affairs Office Maj. Dave Pytlik said in a statement. “She and her daughter were killed while sitting in their vehicle in their own neighborhood.”

“Chasity was beloved by her fellow Soldiers in the 142nd Medical Company,” Pytlik said. “Her wit, social nature and dedication to duty made her one of the best Soldiers in our unit. I cannot begin to make sense of why this happened and why her family, friends, co-workers and fellow Soldiers have been robbed of her and Zella. What we can, and must do now, is support one another as we grieve, process this profound loss and honor their memory.”

She was studying for her second master’s degree and worked as a patient safety and clinical quality coordinator at MIT.

“Chasity was a force to be reckoned with; incredibly dependable,” her obituary said. “There wasn’t anything she couldn’t do, and if it couldn’t be done immediately, you better believe she would strategize to make sure it got done. She brightened up every room she walked into, evident in the outpouring of love she has received.”

She left behind a 2-year-old daughter, a fundraising website said. Her daughters were the center of her world.

“Everything she did to elevate her life was for them,” the obit said.

Zella was an optimistic and creative soul, the obit continued.

“Much like her mother, she wanted to dabble in everything from painting, singing, dancing to skating,” it read. “She was kindhearted, a joy to be around and loved to teach us her latest TikTok dances. Her benevolent nature won hearts easily.”

Tyrae Sims, Zella’s cousin and godfather, who told NBC Boston affiliate WBTS she was legally blind, was shattered.

“Zella was just the best,” Sims said “She was the best, so full of life, such a good little girl. She didn’t deserve it at all.”

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