Michael Roque, a former Binghamton University student accused of fatally stabbing freshman Joao Souza in April, appeared in Broome County Court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge.
Although Roque’s defense lawyer, David Butler, indicated Roque, 20, of Massapequa, New York, intended to plead guilty at the arraignment, Roque voiced his opposition to doing so. Butler said the decision to plead guilty had been discussed with Roque’s family, and that Roque himself had agreed to do so before the arraignment. After a private meeting with Butler, Roque ultimately rejected a plea deal that would have given him a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. Now he will stand trial, and he could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Roque also said he had not received information regarding his case from prosecutors and accused Butler of not meeting with him regularly. Butler denied the accusation, saying he met with Roque “more times than I can count.”
Roque is accused of murdering Joao Souza, 19, on April 15. Souza was fatally stabbed in his dorm room in Windham Hall of Mountainview College. According to police, Roque fled on foot after stabbing Souza. He was apprehended in his dorm room in Hunter Hall of Mountainview College after a 20-hour manhunt. A motive in the murder has not been released.
The murder of Souza is the second to take place this year involving a BU student. Orlando Tercero, 22, a former nursing student at BU, is accused of murdering Haley Anderson, a senior nursing student from Westbury, New York. According to police, Tercero strangled Anderson, who was found dead on March 9 in a student residence on Binghamton’s West Side. He then fled to Nicaragua, where he was apprehended by the Nicaraguan National Police. Tercero is awaiting extradition to the United States.
Currently, Roque remains in Broome County Jail without bail. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in Broome County Court, and his trial will begin on Sept. 24. During his pretrial, he will appear in front of Judge Kevin Dooley.
Amy Donovan contributed reporting to this article.