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Woman murdered in Boston hotel had reported domestic violence to Brookline police a month earlier

Brookline police cruisers. Photo by Zoe Zekos
March 21, 2024

A Brookline woman who was murdered in a Boston hotel in February had reported abuse by her boyfriend to Brookline police just a month before he killed her and himself, according to court records.

Police issued a warrant for the boyfriend’s arrest and the woman obtained an emergency restraining order against him, but police were never able to locate him.

Aanya Vinay, 25, and Keith Ashby, 43, were both found dead at the Moxy hotel on Feb. 26, in what Boston police say was a murder-suicide.

In an online obituary, Vinay’s family called her “a miracle [who] brought a smile to everyone’s face and brightened their lives.”

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Ashby was a registered level 3 sex offender, police said. He was convicted in 2007 of kidnapping, assaulting and raping an ex-girlfriend and, according to the state Department of Corrections, was released from prison in 2020.

On January 26 of this year, Vinay called 911 to report domestic violence, according to a Brookline police report filed in Brookline District Court.

She told police that Ashby, whom she had been dating for two years and who was the father of her 7-month-old child, had yelled at her, pushed her to the ground, and threatened to beat her.

After picking him up from the Dedham Superior Courthouse that day, she went to a class in Roxbury. He called her multiple times telling her to leave with him, and saying that he “would come inside and beat her,” according to the police report.

Later that day, at her apartment on Beacon Street in Brookline, he “pushed her to the floor with both hands on her shoulders,” and then again into a shelf. After demanding money, he threatened to “put her head into the wall,” according to the report. He left the apartment when she dialed 911.

Police brought her to the station, where she filled out an affidavit attesting to the abuse and seeking an emergency restraining order. A judge granted the order for the following three days, until January 29. Vinay said at the time that she planned to ask for it to be extended. It was not immediately clear if she had done so.

That day, police filed a warrant for Ashby’s arrest, charging him with domestic assault and battery as well as making threats against Vinay. The police report listed several “high risk” indicators: a criminal history, extreme violence to the victim, access to weapons, an increase in the severity of violence and being unemployed.

He was never taken into custody between then and Feb. 26, when he killed Vinay and then himself in the Boston hotel room.

Paul Campbell, deputy superintendent at the Brookline Police Department, said that detectives had tried to locate Ashby after the warrant was issued. Ashby had no permanent address, so the detectives sent information about him to all officers in the department and to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC).

Ashby had failed to update his information with the sex offender registry when required to do so in early February of this year, Campbell said, and did not have any address listed on the registry. Calls and emails to Ashby were also unsuccessful, he said.

At one point while Brookline police were looking for him, a police officer in Brockton saw a license plate that authorities believed was connected to Ashby, but later told Brookline detectives that the operator was a female, according to Campbell.

Amarely Gutierrez Oliver, executive director of the advocacy and direct service nonprofit REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, said that the moment when survivors of domestic violence go to the police for help can be dangerous.

“That’s when things heighten. That’s when the crisis in their life is going to be extreme, and they’re most vulnerable,” she said. The perpetrator “can go into crisis because they realize ‘I’m losing control here.’“

Involving police and getting a restraining order is the safest option for some survivors, and not for others, Oliver said. Organizations like hers will send advocates to accompany survivors to speak with police, to offer resources and to help develop safety plans.

Members of Vinay’s family did not respond to inquiries from Brookline.News.

In the online obituary, according to The Boston Globe. Vinay’s family wrote, “She was so full of love and laughter and compassion for others. Her love knew no bounds.” (The obituary has since been removed from the Internet).

Growing up, Vinay spent time in Switzerland, Sweden, New Jersey, and Boston, the Globe reported.

Vinay’s “greatest passion and joy was being a mother to her wonderful and charming son,” the obituary read. She “had a blessed life surrounded by love and deep caring from each and every one who knew her or even briefly interacted with her. She was bubbly, full of life, and always saw the good in people.”

Ellen Clegg contributed reporting.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence in Brookline or nearby, contact REACH Beyond Domestic Violence’s hotline at 1-800-899-4000. The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.