NEW BEDFORD--Jorge Arce, the Taunton man arrested Wednesday night in connection with New Bedford's first murder of 2017, was arraigned in New Bedford District Court Thursday afternoon and ordered held without bail.

Arce, 37, is accused of stabbing 22-year-old Emmanuel Fuentes to death Sunday night after an altercation on Ashley Boulevard. Fuentes died as a result of stab wounds to his neck and shoulder.

According to prosecutors, there was a small gathering of people at a house on Ashley Boulevard, with both the victim and the defendant in attendance. Fuentes is said to have become intoxicated and unruly, and was asked to leave. Arce and an unidentified man followed Fuentes outside, where the unidentified man punched him the face, knocking him down. When he tried to get up, prosecutors say that's when Arce stabbed him to death.

"The victim was punched, and shortly thereafter, when he got up, we allege that this defendant, Mr. Arce, stabbed the victim to death," Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn said.

Arce's attorney, Kevin Reddington, believes his client was mistakenly identified by police as the murderer and says there is "a lot to work with" in his defense.

"I feel that there are a lot of issues, identification issues, and the government has some problems with the case," Reddington said. "Of course, we'll flush that out as the case moves along."

Arce was arrested Wednesday night by a Massachusetts state trooper on Route 24 in Bridgewater. He has a criminal record, with a pending heroin and cocaine trafficking case in Fall River Superior Court. He had his $50,000 cash bail in that case revoked by Judge Cynthia Brackett, and was ordered held without bail in Fuentes' murder.

In an odd circumstance, Arce did not appear in the courtroom, instead standing in the hallway just outside during his arraigment.

"Because it's an identification issue, that's kind of a no-brainer," Reddington said. "If you have an issue dealing with identification, you don't want the person standing there with (the media) taking pictures and video cameras, where it can pollute an out-of-court indentification the government is trying to put together."

Arce's record was also impounded, something Reddington said came from the government and was not by his request.

Reddington said there are "a lot of holes" in the police report.

Arce will return to court February 28.

"It's time for the case to work its way through the system, and let the system work," Quinn said.

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