Bristol man remembers ‘true love’ Eudora Gustafson

The 66-year-old woman was allegedly murdered by her grandson in her Sowams Drive home Friday evening

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Eudora Gustafson was a trailblazer as one of the first female EMTs in the area. She was a caretaker who worked as a certified nursing assistant, and was always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need.

Eudora Gustafson — Dora to those who knew her — was happy and active, serving as a volunteer emergency medical technician with Bristol Rescue for many years, until a fibromyalgia diagnosis slowed her down in 1996. Still, despite limited movement, she always did everything she could to help others.

“She was always a forgiving person, always there for you no matter who you were,” said her husband, Mark Gustafson, Wednesday afternoon. “If you didn’t have something, she’d help you get it. That’s who she was. She forgives. That’s how we stuck together for 28 years. I guess that was true love.”

r. Gustafson came home from work early Friday evening, after he was unable to get ahold of his wife by phone. He was right to be concerned. He found Ms. Gustafson deceased in the home they shared at 34 Sowams Drive. She is allegedly the victim of the latest person she was trying to help out.

Raymond Paiva, 24, Ms. Gustafson’s grandson who she allowed to live in her home with his girlfriend, has been charged with Ms. Gustafson’s murder, Bristol Police announced Tuesday. He was arraigned on one count of first degree murder Tuesday from his bed in Rhode Island Hospital, where he is recovering from multiple gunshot wounds reportedly sustained when Providence Police opened fired after chasing him Friday evening. He was ordered held without bail, and will be remanded to the ACI after being released from the hospital.

Police have not released any details of the investigation, including Ms. Gustafson's cause of death. The state Medical Examiner’s Office is still investigating, which has held up funeral arrangements Mr. Gustafson will be making with George Lima Funeral Home.

Bristol Police responded to a call from Mr. Gustafson around 7 p.m. Friday that his wife was unresponsive. She was determined to be dead at the scene, according to a statement Bristol Police released Sunday night.

"Gustafson’s cause of death is pending results from the Office of the State Medical Examiner," the statement reads. "During investigation by police, Raymond Paiva, age 24, and Selena Martinez, age 21, were sought for questioning regarding the death of Gustafson. Both Paiva and Martinez were known to Gustafson."

Mr. Gustafson reportedly realized checks, jewelry, prescription drugs, and his wife’s car were missing Friday night. Bristol Police issued a bulletin for the car, which Providence Police found later Friday. Providence officers reportedly fired on Mr. Paiva and his companion, Selena Martinez, 21, after a brief chase. Both were hit and hospitalized, according to reports. No weapon has been reported to have been in the couple's possession.

Providence Police Sgt. Curt Desautels and Officer Taylor Brito reportedly perceived a threat when approaching the car and fired multiple times each, Providence Police have said. Mr. Paiva was reportedly hit multiple times and brought to RI Hospital in critical condition. Ms. Martinez was treated and released into police custody.

Ms. Martinez was arraigned in Providence District Court Monday morning on five Providence charges of possessing a stolen vehicle and receiving stolen goods, three of them felonies, according Amy Kempe in Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's office. Ms. Martinez was released on $10,000 personal recognizance and remains under investigation for her potential role in the Bristol homicide, Ms. Kempe said.

This wasn't the first police visit to the Sowams Road home, according to neighbor Steve Withers, who lives next door. A Bristol police car was seen Thursday outside the house, where officers were asking about another issue that may or may not be related. Mr. Gustafson declined to discuss any details of the case so as not to interfere with the ongoing investigation, which he hopes results in justice for the woman he met in 1988.

“I had just came back from the Persian Gulf,” and had just done a photo shoot with other veterans for the Providence Journal in Newport. “I was at the Lighthouse (a former cafe), and she had gotten a rescue call that brought her to Newport, and they stopped in to eat. I saw her joking with the waiters in there — she’s a very jolly person.”

Mr. Gustafson struck up a conversation with his future wife and asked her to meet him back there when she got out of work.

“She said she’d meet me. I said, she’s not gonna show, she’s not gonna show,” Mr. Gustafson said. “But she did. She walked in with two of her friends. That’s when basically our lives bloomed.”

The couple moved around Bristol, and briefly lived in Warren to help Eudora’s mother, before settling on Sowams Drive 17 years ago. There they lived with Ms. Gustafson’s three cats. The couple both worked two jobs to help make ends meet, until her diagnosis slowed her down.

“With that disease, it was killing her,” Mr. Gustafson said. “It got to the point she couldn’t be lifting anymore. She would listen to that scanner and jump out of bed at 2 in the morning when there was a call. That really hurt her — she couldn’t really do much. She was always very active.”

Jen Mancieri, who worked with Ms. Gustafson for Bristol Rescue, remembers her as an example for others in the department. Ms. Mancieri stopped by Mr. Gustafson’s house Wednesday afternoon to drop off Dora’s dress uniform, which she always said she wanted to be her last outfit. Ms. Mancieri hopes to secure a Bristol rescue to be part of her funeral procession.

“She was small in stature and very feisty,” Ms. Mancieri said. “She was one of the first female EMTs the town had. She definitely set a precedent for all of us who came after her.”

Bristol murder

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