Suspect in deadly Salem shooting pleads not guilty in killing of student athlete


Authorities said the suspect was in an “on-again, off-again relationship” with a woman who was in a car with the Salem State student at the time of the shooting.

Carl-Hens Beliard. AP

The suspect in a fatal Salem shooting allegedly fired a gun at a university student’s car because the student was inside the vehicle with a woman the suspect had dated, according to court officials Thursday.

Missael Pena Canela, 18, of Salem, was charged with murder and held without bail in the deadly shooting of Carl-Hens Beliard, a Salem State University student and forward on the varsity basketball team. During the arraignment, which took place a day after the fatal shooting, he pleaded not guilty. 

Authorities said the shooting occurred early Wednesday near 22 Forest Ave., a residential area of Salem next to a parking lot that belongs to the university. 

Law enforcement responded to the scene at about 1:30 a.m. and found Beliard inside a vehicle with one gunshot wound. He later died from his injuries at a nearby hospital.

When Canela allegedly fired the shots at the car, Beliard also crashed the vehicle. The woman inside the vehicle was able to get out of the car without injury, but it was through her that investigators said they determined Canela to be the suspect. 

Missael Pena Canela during his arraignment Thursday in Salem District Court. Paul Bilodeau / Pool

According to authorities, the woman had an “on-again, off-again relationship” with the defendant. In a previous incident, Canela allegedly smashed her phone during a fight. He was also charged with vandalism of property and destruction of property less than $1,200. 

Canela faces a probable cause hearing next, scheduled for Dec. 1. 

The news of Beliard’s death shocked the university community and his teammates — the forward was just a week away from playing his first college game, reports WBZ. He was also on the state championship-winning team at North High in Worcester before attending Salem State. 

“Carl had an amazing smile that he brought every day to practice,” said Chris Harvey, Salem State basketball’s head coach. “Our collective hearts are crushed with his passing.”

The Vikings team is holding a vigil for Beliard at Twohig Gymnasium at 7 p.m. Thursday.