Troubled, shuttered Roggie's in Cleveland Circle could be replaced by family-friendly pizza place

Fans of the brushed metal look better hurry over before it's stripped away.

Pizza-making brothers from the Fall River suburb of Somerset have an agreement to buy the long closed Roggie's on Chestnut Hill Avenue and remake it as their second pizza place.

Dimitrios and Nicholas Liakos brought boxes of their Agoro's pizza to introduce themselves to members of the Brighton Allston Improvement Association tonight.

Agoro's, open since 1984, is a family-oriented "pizza bar," Dimitrios Liakos told members. He said he planned extensive renovations to Roggie's, starting with getting rid of the current steel front. The restaurant will have both a sit-down area and a separate place for take out and sales of individual slices.

The Liakoses are seeking association backing for their bid for Boston Licensing Board approval to buy Roggie's beer-and-wine license.

The city shut Roggie's in May, 2014 after an incident involving a patron who fell down the stairs there. Owner John Rogaris was indicted on charges that he had workers dump the unconscious man in an alley and that he tried to tamper with the restaurant's video-surveillance system when police began asking questions about the incident.

In response to a question from a BPD officer tonight, Dimitrios Liakos said he would install a state-of-the art video system. He joked he would wire it directly to District D-14 if that's what police wanted.

Dorchester con charged with 1992 South End murder

When James Witkowski, 42, was sentenced to 18 months in jail last summer for violating the terms of an assault-and-battery conviction - following earlier convictions that included drug distribution - he had to supply a DNA sample.

The sample matched DNA found on the body of Lena Bruce after she was raped and suffocated in her South End apartment on July 12, 1992. Today, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office announced Witkowski faces a charge of first-degree murder for her death.

Bruce, 21, a Philadelphia native, had graduated with honors with a degree in electrical engineering from Tufts University just two months before her death.

At a press conference today, DA Dan Conley said:

Despite an extensive investigation by police and prosecutors in the days and weeks that followed, there were no witnesses and no leads. The case was highlighted in the media and by Lena’s friends and family. Even years after her death, generations of investigators continued to appeal to the public and sift through the evidence for anything that would identify her killer. Despite their best efforts, Lena’s murder went unsolved - until now. ...

As far as anyone can tell, Witkowski was a stranger to Lena Bruce. At the time of her murder, he had only a minor record of larceny-related offenses and there was nothing to link him to the crime. But Boston Police detectives assigned to the case collected and processed the crime scene evidence carefully. They stored that evidence under laboratory conditions for more than two decades. And as a result, we have today what they couldn’t imagine in 1992 - DNA evidence that identifies James Witkowski to the exclusion of any other suspect, recovered from two locations on Lena Bruce's body ...

This break led to a blizzard. Some 58 exhibits went before the grand jury. Investigators travelled to multiple states, interviewing and re-interviewing witnesses. The Crime Lab re-tested evidence - including a wallet found outside Lena Bruce’s building on the night her body was discovered. Inside was one slip of paper with one fingerprint that the BPD Latent Print Unit matched to James Witkowski’s left thumb.

Conley continued:

With a job offer from one of the country's premier engineering companies, Lena’s future looked bright. She moved to Boston’s South End, where she was intent not just on doing well for herself, but on doing good for others. Growing up in Philadelphia, she had volunteered with the elderly and with troubled teens. She was extremely active in her community, and even today, young women attend college thanks to a scholarship in Lena’s name through her sorority, the Xi Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Thi. In every way, Lena Bruce was just the kind of person we want in our city. Had she been allowed to grow into a successful woman, there’s no telling what she would have accomplished.

Sadly, Lena’s parents passed away before we could inform them that their daughter’s killer had finally been identified.

Innocent, etc.

City looking at ways to levy fines on landlords who stuff too many students in their units

A city zoning rule that bans more than four undergraduates in an apartment isn't working, city officials said today, so they've begun looking at changes that would let them start levying fines on landlords who persist in overcrowding their units.

The problem, ISD Commissioner William Christopher said at a City Council hearing, is that zoning regulations carry no financial penalties - and inspectors can be turned away at the door. His department is looking at moving the rule into the city sanitary code - which does allow for fines, and lets ISD go into court for a subpoena or search warrant for units whose occupants or landlords try to turn away inspectors.

Christopher said that since the current ban on more than four undergrads went into effect in 2008, inspectors have only cited two properties for violations.

Christopher emphasized his goal is not to start levying fines left and right - and not to get students kicked out of apartments - but to simply ensure students have safe and sanitary living conditions. Unfortunately, he said, the only way to get some landlords to fix a problem is "is to affect their finances."

That's fine, city councilors Mark Ciommo (Allston/Brighton) and Josh Zakim (Mission Hill, Fenway) said. But even if the apartments are safe, they can still have significant impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods - such as noise, trash and public-safety issues - they said. "A lot of landlords are taking advantage of every nook and cranny in a house" to put in beds, Ciommo said.

They noted that the state sanitary code, which calls for a minimum of 150 square feet for the first residents and 100 for each additional resident, could still mean a triple decker filled with lots of students.

Former City Councilor Mike Ross, who came up with the zoning rule, said the goal was not necessarily to un-cram apartments, but to ensure that real-estate speculators didn't simply buy up entire neighborhoods to convert them into students housing. Despite the lack of enforcement, he said, the measure has had some success; he said one Mission Hill landlord is converting all his student apartments to professional and family housing. He pointed to increased on-campus dormitories as well as hundreds of new units being built along South Huntington Avenue that have restrictions on student renters.

Christopher said that while local colleges have worked to get the city addresses of buildings that house students, students in those units don't have to let inspectors in and they don't have to identify themselves as students. He said some landlords now tell students to refuse to let inspectors in.

"The city has never, ever evicted a student under this ordinance," he said. "We would never do that."

He said that for this current academic year, ISD identified 589 potential problem buildings in neighborhoods such as Allston, Brighton and Mission Hill. Of those, inspectors could only gain entry to 10%, he said.

Dorchester developer chosen to rebuild Charlestown public-housing project

The Boston Housing Authority said today it's chosen Corcoran Jennison of Dorchester to completely rebuild and expand the Bunker Hill development into a mixed-income community.

Corcoran Jennison, which will work with SunCal, a California developer, will tear down the development's current 1,100 apartments and replace them with up to 2,400 new apartments - 1,100 subsidized units for residents who meet BHA income requirements and the rest rented at market rates.

Under the contract, the subsidized units have to be built to the same standards as the market-rate units. Demolition will be done in phases; current residents will be offered units in other BHA developments or Section 8 certificates.

In a statement, the BHA said:

The goal of the project is to offer residents a more livable, healthier, and more sustainable community within a truly mixed-income Charlestown neighborhood that responds to the needs and aspirations of all its residents. ...

The BHA has focused on the Charlestown site in particular due to current market conditions and the potential opportunity for the preservation or replacement of all of the existing 1,100 low-income units in the development with little or no public subsidy. The potential for adding additional units to create a mixed-income development would add both affordable workforce and market rate apartments, which BHA hopes would generate additional income to help sustain the low-income units over the long term.

Corcoran Jennison is headquartered next to Columbia Point, which underwent a similar reconstruction from the old Harbor Point project.

Dying woman's confession leads to new court hearing for man convicted of 2001 Roxbury crack-house murder

A man convicted of a 2001 murder in a Dorchester crack house will get to make the case why a woman's statement that casts doubt on the testimony of the only witness against him should be enough for a new trial, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled today.

In 2005, a Suffolk Superior Court jury convicted Kenji Drayton of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Michael Greene, based in part on the testimony of James Jackson, who claimed he watched Drayton shoot Greene in a Columbia Road apartment that was used for selling and using drugs.

Some 18 months later, Debra Bell filed an affidavit claiming Jackson could not possibly have seen Drayton shoot Greene because he was busy doing drugs and having sex with her in a bathroom with the door closed while Greene was being shot.

Bell said she had lied in her initial interview with police and was coming clean because she had terminal cancer and "did not want her failure to disclose what she knew about the shooting on her conscience." Drayton filed for a new trial, but Bell died a week after that.

A lower-court judge ruled her death made Bell's affidavit hearsay - she could no longer be cross examined - and so not admissible in court.

The state's highest court noted that up until now, the only exception to the ban on hearsay was for deathbed confessions about whatever it was that had caused the confessing person's death - something that obviously did not apply in this case, since Bell's death had nothing to do with the murder.

But in its ruling today, the court carved out a new exemption to the state's existing hearsay rules to let Drayton at least make his case in a formal "evidentiary" hearing, at which he could attempt to prove the affidavit is "trustworthy" enough as evidence based on corroboration by other evidence or testimony from his trial.

Because Debra's affidavit is critical to the defense, its admissibility hinges on whether the defendant establishes that it bears persuasive assurances of trustworthiness. Although therecord as it stands does not permit us to answer that question, the evidence submitted by the defendant establishes that there is a substantial issue whether the affidavit has sufficient assurances of trustworthiness.