UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments on the verdict from a family member of the victim.

NEW BEDFORD — A 29-year-old New Bedford man was convicted by jury last Friday of second degree murder in the 2015 shooting death of a 24-year-old man in the city.

The Bristol County District Attorney's Office said Michael Sousa was found guilty after a 13-day trial and sentenced to 25 years in prison for murdering Jeffrey Sylvia, Jr. on Aug. 2, 2015.

The trial made headlines in 2018 after three men were convicted and sentenced for intimidating witnesses in the case.

At around 1:37 a.m. that morning, New Bedford police responded to the area of 80 Rivet St. for a reported gunshot with a male victim on the ground.

Officers arrived to find Sylvia suffering from a single gunshot wound to his face.

According to the D.A.'s office, they tried to give him life-saving medical treatment, but he was later pronounced dead at the scene.

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Police found a .40 caliber discharged shell casing next to Sylvia's body, thought to be the casing from the bullet that killed him.

Sousa was questioned as part of the investigation because police knew him and knew that he lived at 49 Acushnet Ave., close to the scene of the murder, the D.A.'s office stated.

But after canvassing witnesses, police learned that Sousa had been seen in a car with the victim just a few minutes before the murder — and he misled investigators when asked about it.

The D.A.'s office said that according to witnesses, Sousa and his friend and co-defendant Darian Cardoza said they had planned to rob Sylvia, whom they accused of dealing heroin.

But the robbery went wrong and Sousa said he had to shoot the kid.

"I shot him in the face with a hollow tip," the D.A.'s office cited Sousa as telling witnesses.

According to the office, the civilian witnesses also testified to seeing both defendants split around $3,000 in cash that they said they stole from the victim, with Cardoza receiving less money because Sousa complained he did all of the work.

The firearm that was used to kill Sylvia was later recovered from an abandoned house at 26 Thompson St. in New Bedford.

Cardoza pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and received a 10-15 year sentence on Jan. 25, 2019.

One family member of the victim told WBSM News, "After seven years of waiting and finally hearing the verdict, it felt real at that given moment and left us all with so many mixed emotions."

But sadness is at the forefront of those emotions, she noted.

"The world lost a beautiful soul who didn't deserve to lose his life in such a cruel way," she said.

“This is another example of a senseless killing over drugs," said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn, who noted that the case took a long time to bring to trial due to the pandemic and legal issues.

"I want to thank the family for their patience and perseverance during a very difficult time for them," Quinn added. "I hope they have some consolation that the defendant is being held accountable for their loved ones death."

The Victims in the New Bedford Highway Murders

The New Bedford highway murders took place in 1988, with the bodies discovered into 1989. The killer is confirmed to have killed nine women and suspected of murdering at least two more. Although there were at least three different men considered as suspects by the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, the murders remain unsolved and the families of the victims are still searching for closure. The cases are all featured on the unsolved cases page of the Bristol County District Attorney's Office website.

Massachusetts Unresolved Cases Playing Cards

Playing cards are being distributed to inmates in Massachusetts correctional facilities depicting the victims of unsolved murders and disappearances in the hopes that some inmates may recognize them and help bring closure to their cases.

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