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Mother of four among victims identified in Westerly shooting

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Westerly — A mother of four who had just begun working at the Babcock Village assisted-living facility was among three women who were shot there Thursday. Police on Friday identified the women and the gunman.

Forty-seven-year-old Westerly resident Julie Cardinal, a manager at Babcock Village, was found dead at the scene, Westerly police said Friday.

Robin Moss, 38, of Cranston, another manager of the assisted-living facility, is in critical condition at Yale New Haven Hospital, Westerly police said.

Donna Thornley, 66, a resident at the facility, was in stable condition Friday at Rhode Island Hospital, police said.

The three women were shot when a resident opened fire shortly after 10:30 a.m. at the subsidized assisted-living facility at 122 Cross St., which has about 150 units. The suspected shooter was identified as 66-year-old Joseph Giachello. He was found dead in his apartment from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.

Police first responded to the scene at 10:32 a.m. after two reports of gunfire in the area. When officers arrived, they found two women shot in the main lobby and a third in the office across from the lobby. Each of them had been shot once, police said.

Moss and Thornley were taken to hospitals by Westerly Ambulance. Cardinal, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was taken to the Rhode Island Medical Examiner's Office.

Morgan Bettencourt, one of Cardinal's four children, wrote on Facebook on Thursday: "You see things like this all over the news everyday. But you never think something like this could happen to you, or your family."

Bettencourt, who lives in Florida, included a tribute to her mother in the post. "To my beautiful Mother ... You did not deserve this, you deserved to fill this cruel world with laughs, smiles and love," she wrote.

A GoFundMe page created in Cardinal's memory had raised nearly $49,000 by Friday afternoon to help Cardinal's family pay for funeral expenses, surpassing its goal of $25,000 with more than 800 donations.

Bettencourt shared the GoFundMe page on her Facebook on Friday with the message, "This community is unreal."

The creator of the page, Westerly resident Sophia Read, noted that Cardinal was a mother, daughter, aunt and friend. "Julie woke up today and went about her business like any other day until her life was unfairly taken," Read wrote. "Her Gypsy Soul will continue to shine through her family and those she touched throughout the community."

According to her Facebook page, Cardinal was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and the band Fleetwood Mac, especially their song "Gypsy."

With hundreds of memorial comments on her last Facebook post, one word was repeated by many when remembering Julie: "vibrant."

Gene Arganese, owner of the Sandy Shore Motel in Misquamicut where Cardinal also worked, said he knew Cardinal for about 14 years. He said Cardinal was a single mother of four who was always working multiple jobs to support her family, in addition to volunteering and staying active in the community. She worked with Arganese at his motel, helping with marketing and entertainment scheduling, and also worked as a server and bartender at his restaurant, Gino's By the Beach, he said.

Cardinal had just started working at Babcock Village two months ago. She had been working in Newport, but accepted the position at the assisted-living facility to shorten her commute, Arganese said.

"An opportunity came up in Westerly two months ago and she jumped all over it," he said. "She was just hired and then this happened."

Cardinal also was a licensed real estate agent, said Arganese, and did a lot of fundraising and volunteer work in the area. The motel owner said that when Hurricane Sandy hit, Cardinal was right out on the frontlines helping to restore the beach. "She loved the beach," he said.

"Whatever hand she was able to give, she did," Arganese said. "She had a big heart."

He said that Cardinal was a happy person who knew everyone and was always outgoing and generous. "She was a sweetheart, she was a giver — she didn't have much but if anybody needed something, she'd give them the clothes off her back if she had to," he said.

Before her death, Cardinal had been helping Arganese plan a new car raffle at the motel to benefit St. Jude's Children's Hospital. The raffle will be held in September, in Cardinal's memory, he said.

"This is a really terrible thing to happen in Westerly and she didn't deserve it one bit," Arganese said. "She was one of the good guys."

On Thursday, police used surveillance footage from the facility's office to identify the suspect, a resident who was seen on video going in and out of the office about the time shots were fired. They deployed a video-recording robot from the Rhode Island State Bomb Squad into his residence, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

A revolver was recovered at the scene, Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said Friday.

Police said they were familiar with Giachello but didn't say in what capacity. "We've had some sort of dealing with him in the past," Lacey had said at a news conference Thursday.

Lacey said investigators had "no idea" whether the shooting was random or targeted, or whether the suspect knew the victims personally.

Detectives remained on scene at Babcock Village until early Friday, police said.

The Westerly Police Department and Rhode Island State Police still were investigating Friday. A motive for the shooting had not yet been determined, police said.

t.hartz@theday.com

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