Gruesome murder leads to courtroom scuffle

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Cranston Police have charged Matthew Komrowski, 34, of 157 Porter St., with killing Shirley Donnelly, 38, of 575 Dyer Ave., in her apartment and then setting her apartment on fire to cover the crime.

Komrowski was ordered held without bail. He did not enter a plea to the charges.

“This was just a vicious crime, a horrible crime,” said Col. Marco Palombo, the Cranston Chief of Police, who was one of the first people on the scene Thursday. “I’m thankful that we were able to make this apprehension as quickly as we did and got this guy off the street. This was one of the most, maybe the most, gruesome crimes I have seen in 24 years as a police officer.”

Komrowski was arrested in Providence late Friday night in his sister’s apartment on Potters Avenue in Providence. He has a lengthy court record, including assault, larceny, arson and, most recently, robbery, for which he received a 30-year sentence, with 13 to serve behind bars. He was released from the Adult Correctional Institutions on Wednesday, the day before the murder.

According to Cranston Police, officers “were armed with an arrest warrant from the Department of Probation and Parole” that was issued as soon as Komrowski was identified as a suspect. Police said Komrowski put up a brief struggle with officers just before 11 p.m. Friday night.

Cranston Police were initially called to investigate the report of a possible arson fire at the Riverbend Apartments on Dyer Avenue just before midnight Thursday. The Cranston Fire Department found Donnelly’s body in the bedroom of the second floor apartment where the fire occurred. The circumstances were deemed suspicious and the focus turned from arson to homicide.

Witnesses told police Komrowski was seen leaving in the victim’s car shortly before the fire. Police said it appears Donnelly had been beaten and killed and the fire set to cover up the crime.

Donnelly’s ex-husband, identified as Raymond Donnelly of Cranston, tried to confront Komrowski at his arraignment Monday morning. The ex-husband, who had been sitting in District Court in Warwick, climbed over a railing to get at Komrowski, as he was being led from the courtroom. Court security and a clerk of the court immediately surrounded Donnelly and took him to the ground before he got to Komrowski.

Another person got partway across the railing, but video of the incident appears to show that the second person, identified by some sources as the 18-year-old son of Shirley Donnelly, was attempting to restrain Raymond Donnelly before walking away from the fray himself. Court personnel detained both men for about 15 minutes before they were let go.

Komrowski was returned to the ACI.

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