Death Of Big Dan's Rape Victim Was Final 'Tragic Chapter' Of Her Young LifeMITCHELL ZUCKOFF , Associated Press
Dec. 17, 1986 6:20 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) _ A 25-year-old woman who was gang raped on a pool table at Big Dan's tavern in New Bedford has died in a traffic accident, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Cheryl A. Araujo was killed Sunday when she lost control of her car and it slammed into a utility pole near her new home in Miami. Her two young daughters were injured in the crash, and were treated at Miami Children's Hospital and released Tuesday.
The cause of the crash was not known. Investigators said alcohol or drugs were not involved.
Hostility in New Bedford, Ms. Araujo's hometown, after the March 1984 convictions of four men who attacked her a year before prompted her to move to Florida, said Scott Charnas, a lawyer who represented Ms. Araujo during the widely publicized trial.
Ms. Araujo was living in Miami with her daughters, Carolyn, 6, and Jessica, 4, and the girls' father - her high school sweetheart - in a mobile home park.
''She had begun making a life for herself and she was reasonably happy,'' Charnas said. ''She was starting school to become a secretary at the time that she died.''
''She was the bravest person I've ever met,'' he said. ''I think this was just the last tragic chapter of her life.''
At the time of the rape, Ms. Araujo, her daughters and the girls' father lived together in a two-story tenement down the street from the tavern, which closed shortly after the attack was reported.
Ms. Araujo testified she had gone to Big Dan's to buy cigarettes. She stopped to talk with a woman and show off pictures of her daughters. She bought a drink, played a song on a jukebox and watched two men play pool.
As she got up to leave, Ms. Araujo testified, she was grabbed from behind, dragged to the pool table, stripped from the waist down and raped by two men while two others tried to force her to perform oral sex.
Other patrons cheered ''like at a baseball game or something,'' she said.
Daniel Silva, 30, Victor Raposo, 26, and John Cordeiro, 27, are serving nine-to-12-year sentences, while Joseph Vieira, 30, is serving a six- to eight-year term. Their sentences are being appealed. Two other defendants were acquitted.
As she left the courthouse after the sentences, Ms. Araujo - despite being Portuguese herself - was jeered by members of the Portuguese community who rallied around the men, now known as the ''Big Dan's Four.''
Community leaders claim the case received unwarranted media scrutiny and the men were given longer-than-usual sentences because of their ethnic backgrounds.
A $10 million suit Ms. Araujo had filed against the tavern owners was dropped when it became clear the owners had no money to pay, Charnas said.
Robert Panoff, a Florida lawyer and distant relative who represented Ms. Araujo after her move, said she received about $10,000 for selling the rights for a book and a movie. She would have made far more if either had been produced, but plans were dropped.
Panoff urged that Ms. Araujo be remembered not for what happened to her, but for serving as an example to other rape victims with her bravery and refusal to stay quiet.
''I once said to her, 'You've been through such a terrible experience and yet you remain so cheerful. How do you do it?'
''She said in a nonchalant way: 'You deal with what life gives you. What am I supposed to do, shut down my life because it happened? It happened and you deal with it.'''