UPDATE: Murder charged in 2022 Johnston killing

Cranston man, a convicted serial domestic abuser allegedly killed his wife day after violating protection order


UPDATED: In March 2022, a Cranston man was sentenced to attend Batterers Intervention two months after he allegedly killed his wife.

Johnston Police responded to an early morning call on George Waterman Road in mid-January of last year. A woman was dead at 35 years old. Following an 18-month investigation, a Johnston man and his son are now facing charges connected to her killing.

Around 5:25 a.m., on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, a caller reported a “deceased female” at 454 George Waterman Road. The day before, her husband was arrested for a third violation of a protective order, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

“Upon arrival, the decedent was identified as Sara A. Unkuri, age 35,” Johnston Police Chief Mark A. Vieira said last week, following the announcement of a pair of indictments in the case. “The scene was secured and a suspicious death investigation was initiated in conjunction with members of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.”

The victim, Sara Ann Unkuri (Tefft), a Westerly native, had two children and six sisters.

“Sara was a beautiful person with such a kind heart and will be deeply missed by those who love her,” according to her obituary.

Police started their investigation by talking to the man who lived at 454 George Waterman Road, and his son, the victim’s husband.

“Two persons of interest were identified and later interviewed by members of the Johnston Police Department’s Investigative Division,” Vieira said. “The persons of interest were Ms. Unkuri’s husband, identified as William M. Bailey, age 37, of 97 Victoria St., Cranston, and Mr. Bailey’s father, identified as William Link, age 58, of 454 George Waterman Road, Johnston. After an extensive investigation, the case was forwarded for formal review by the Office of the Attorney General.”

On Friday, June 30, the Providence County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Bailey with one count of murder, according to Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office spokesman Brian Hodge. The Grand Jury also returned an indictment charging Link with one count of misprision of a felony (“misprision of a felony” can be charged if a suspect allegedly knows a felony has occurred, but does not tell the authorities).

Both men were arraigned in Providence County Superior Court on Friday, July 7. Bailey pleaded not guilty and was held without bail on a Domestic Violence, first-degree murder charge and as an alleged habitual offender.

His father, Link, also entered a not guilty plea. Judge McBurney set his bond at $100,000 surety.

Ater discovering his wife's body, Johnston Police charged Bailey with four counts of Domestic Violence-Criminal Violation of No Contact Order (3rd+ or subsequent offense), Disorderly Conduct and Resisting Arrest, according to court records.

"The Johnston Police Department discovered Mr. Bailey violated the no-contact order in the course of investigating Ms. Unkuri’s death," Vieira explained. "The Johnston Police Department did not have any previous contacts with Bailey prior to investigating the death. Bailey was arrested by the Johnston Police Department on (Jan. 17) around 1:45 p.m. and was subsequently charged with Violation of a No Contact order."

Two months later, Bailey entered a no contest plea on one count of violating a no contact order. Magistrate John F. McBurney III dismissed the other three counts and the disorderly conduct charge. The judge sentenced Bailey to eight years (five years behind bars with a three-year suspended sentence, eight years of probation and credit for time served). Bailey had another suspended year (and another year of probation) tacked on for the resisting arrest charge.

The judge also ordered Bailey to attend Batterers Intervention, as the AG’s Office and Johnston Detectives were examining the case of his murdered wife.

During that hearing, Bailey answered for a long list of previous domestic violence-related charges. It was far from Bailey’s first Domestic Violence-related arrest.

In September 2021, Pawtucket Police arrested Bailey for Domestic Violence-Simple Assault and/or Battery (3rd+ offense), Criminal Violation of No Contact Order (3rd+ Offense), Disorderly Conduct and Obstructing Officer in Execution of Duty. (Bailey pleaded no contest to the first two charges, and the second, lesser offenses were dismissed.)

In October 2021, Pawtucket Police arrested and charged Bailey with two counts of Domestic Assault by Strangulation, Felony Assault and/or Battery, Domestic Violence-Simple Assault and/or Battery (1st Offense), Resisting Arrest, Disorderly Conduct and Domestic Violence-Refusal Relinquish/Damage/Obstruct Telephone (1st Offense). Ultimately, Bailey was convicted on the assault charges, but most of the other charges were dismissed.

In March 2022, Bailey had so many domestic violence charges filed against him at once that they were all — the September and October 2021 charges from Pawtucket, and the January 2022 charges from Johnston — handled during the same hearing.

He has been held behind bars since his January 2022 arrest.

Bailey also had earlier domestic violence arrests: Sept. 2, 2021; July 19, 2021; June 28, 2021. Bailey’s lengthy criminal history stretches back years, and includes robbery arrests and other assault charges.

“Following an investigation by the Johnston Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General, a grand jury indicted the defendant, charging him with one count of domestic murder in the homicide death of Sara Unkuri in January 2022,” Hodge replied to queries via email. “This Office is committed to the pursuit of justice in this case on behalf of Ms. Unkuri and her loved ones.”

Johnston Police made no public announcements after they were first called to the crime scene in 2022.

No cause of death has been made public, and few case details have been released. Johnston Police will not release the incident or arrest reports. 

“I am unable to provide you with the reports you are requesting as the disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation or with enforcement proceedings,” Vieira said earlier this week.

The AG also refused to release additional details.

“The prosecution of the case is now pending in Providence County Superior Court, and we are unable to comment about specific details of the case,” Hodge wrote. “This Office has an acute understanding of the trauma that domestic violence inflicts on families and communities throughout Rhode Island in the hundreds of domestic violence cases we prosecute and interact with every year. The Attorney General stands with all victims of domestic violence and will continue to work with partners in law enforcement and the community to hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable.”


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