25 Investigates

Justice and answers on hold for parents of woman murdered at popular Worcester restaurant a year ago

BOSTON — This Fourth of July holiday weekend will hardly feel like a celebration for Ed and Beth Dabrowski.

Nearly a year after their oldest daughter, Amanda, was murdered inside O’Connor’s Restaurant in Worcester on the eve of July Fourth, they are no closer to getting justice.

The criminal case has been on hold since last year. First, her accused killer underwent a months-long psychological evaluation. Then, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state’s courts in March and paused the case. The delays, the Dabrowskis say, have added to their pain and frustration.

“Not a day goes by, not a second goes by frankly that, you know, you’re not thinking of her,” Amanda’s father, Ed, told 25 Investigates.

From her untouched bedroom and favorite dresses to her photos and favorite childhood stuffed animal, Amanda is still very much present in her parents’ home and hearts.

They describe her as bright, “strong willed” and passionate about life, food, wine and her dog, Gus.

The 31-year old worked as a microbiologist at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Devens. It was there she met the man now accused of her murder, Carlos Asencio, who she dated briefly.

“You may have good moments in a particular day. And we have had those, but in general no day is a good day,” said Ed.

Last year, on the evening of July 3rd, Amanda went to O’Connor’s Restaurant in Worcester to meet with a book club for the first time. That’s when police say Asencio walked in and, police reports show, he stabbed her multiple times in front of restaurant workers and patrons. Several jumped in to save her and held him down until police arrived. But Amanda died later that evening at the hospital.

For the Dabrowskis, the past year has been difficult and they say the pandemic has only added to their grief.

“It’s pretty much Hell to not to be able to move forward,” said Ed.

Massachusetts courts have been shut down and are expected to reopen on a limited basis in July. Trials may not resume until the fall.

As 25 Investigates has reported, Amanda got a restraining order against Asencio following a previous attack.

Just three months before her murder, a masked intruder broke into Amanda’s apartment in Ayer. Police records show the intruder hit her with a stun gun, pointed a gun in her face and, eventually, a struggle involving a knife ensued. Amanda fought off her attacker, pushing him out a window before running to the Ayer Police station for help. She told officers she believed Asencio was the attacker, according to reports.

But within a few hours of the attack, police say, Asencio made his way to Montreal, Canada where he boarded a flight to Cancun, Mexico, allegedly hiding there for weeks.

“How are you going to get out? Get to where you need to get to and find the support to keep you hidden and then find your way back all the way across this country, really, to hunt her down? That’s what he did,” said Amanda’s mother, Beth.

At some point between May and end of June, Asencio reentered the United States from Mexico completely undetected, avoiding legal ports of entry, according to sources. He reportedly was off the radar until the night of the murder.

Amanda’s family, however, believes he was tracking her every move for some time.

Two days after her death, Ed said he found a cell phone duct taped to her car bumper. Law enforcement sources tell 25 Investigates it’s possible Asencio was using it to monitor Amanda’s every move.

The Dabrowskis hope once the case resumes they’ll have more clarity on when and how he made it back into the country.

“It’s been a year and no questions have been answered. How he got out, how he got back in and who let him out?” said Ed.

But while they wait for answers, Ed and Beth have turned their pain into action. They are fighting to give a voice to all victims of domestic violence.

They are on a mission to strengthen employment protections for victims of abuse. Amanda was fired from her job at Bristol-Myers Squibb just days after the April attack. So, for the Dabrowskis this fight is personal and they are waging it in honor of Amanda’s life and legacy, says her mother.

“Be kind, be gentle, be safe and go forward, because what you’re doing is not for yourself, but for the good of others,” said Beth.

25 Investigates has learned Asencio was recently transferred to Worcester County Jail after months of evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital, and is expected to be in court in August. 25 Investigates contacted his attorney for comment, but he declined.