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Providence man held in killing, mutilation of woman

John Seal, center, is arraigned on a murder charge in Providence Superior Court, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. (WJAR)

A Providence man accused in the killing and mutilation of a woman was ordered held without bail Tuesday.

John Seal, 57, was arraigned in Providence Superior Court on grand jury indictment, charging him with one count of murder and one count of mutilation of a dead body.

Investigators said the body of 61-year-old Judith O'Brien of North Providence was found In September in a maintenance closet in the Providence apartment building where Seal worked as a handyman.

O’Brien’s boyfriend reported her missing a few weeks after she was last seen August 3, 2017, said police.

According to a state police affidavit obtained by NBC 10 News, Seal told investigators that he and O’Brien had been out drinking when they went back to his apartment at 1245 Smith St. in Providence on the night she died.

Seal said he passed out and when he woke up, O’Brien was dead on the floor. He believed she had fallen and hit her head.

Seal said he panicked because he was on probation, so he wrapped her in a plastic drop cloth and placed her in a utility closet.

The landlord told police Seal had access to keys to locked rooms in the building because he was a handyman for him.

After hiding her body, police said Seal threw O’Brien’s belongings in a dumpster behind his building then drove her car to Twin River Casino in Lincoln, where he left it. Investigators later found her car at the casino on September 7, 2017.

“Judith was very friendly, outgoing. She would do anything for anybody. That's how we knew she wasn't coming home. She never would have driven that night. That was never her. She had a routine," said Barbara Lanois, a friend of O’Brien’s who lives in the same apartment building where the victim lived. "I just can't believe he mutilated her, and right down the road from here. I just can't believe that he did that. She was a wonderful lady. We miss her."

Seal was initially charged with failing to report her death, but the investigation eventually led to his indictment on charges of murder and mutilation.

“We have a great sense of relief he's finally being charged and we know exactly what's going on,” Lanois said.

It's unclear how O'Brien was killed. A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Health told NBC 10 that O’Brien’s official cause of death was undetermined.

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