The Monster Next Door
Beatrice Munyenyezi claimed she was a refugee from the Rwandan genocide. Federal agent Brian Andersen suspected she was someone far more sinister.
The new trial began in February 2013. Instead of overwhelming the jury with a barrage of horrific images from the mouths of killers, prosecutors let the doctor, an authority, recount the mayhem. The secret to convincing the jury was to downplay the carnage, which was too much for them to believe. Prosecutors spent most of their efforts proving that Munyenyezi had lied on her application to become a U.S. citizen, which, after all, was the technicality for which she was being prosecuted. Unlike the first trial, jurors deliberated for just four hours. They found Munyenyezi guilty, and Judge McAuliffe sentenced her to the maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. He also revoked her U.S. citizenship.
In the courtroom that day was Eugenie Mukeshimana, a Rwandan genocide survivor and executive director of the Genocide Survivors Support Network, who just happened to be a former high school classmate of Munyenyezi. She remembers other students calling her an importe, which essentially means “snob.” After the first trial, she says, “I felt like we were robbed of that opportunity to get justice.” Now, she said, “I feel for her daughters. Their father, their grandmother, and now their mother are in jail. I wonder what they knew about their family growing up.”
In late February, I reached out to Munyenyezi’s eldest daughter, Charlene, now a 22-year-old student at Syracuse University, to ask that very question. She denied the charges against her mother and said that her younger sister, Simbi, is studying to become a humanitarian attorney at American University. “My mother was always a woman on a mission,’’ Charlene said before hanging up the phone. “My mother is the greatest woman in the world.”
Today, Munyenyezi is serving her sentence at a prison in Aliceville, Alabama—the only person in the United States found guilty of lying about her role in the Rwandan genocide. It is unclear whether she will be flown back to her native country to face prosecution. Her attorneys appealed her conviction in February, arguing that the sentence was too harsh and that her 2006 testimony at her husband’s trial should not have been admitted. At press time, there was no decision on her appeal. Her sister, Prudence, whose case landed on Andersen’s desk eight years ago, was not charged with genocide but in 2012 received a 21-month prison sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice.
When Munyenyezi is released from prison in January 2020, Andersen has but one goal: to escort her back to Rwanda to face justice where the survivors still live. “She’s a killer,” he says from behind his desk at the HSI field office, which is decorated with 10 African tribal masks for the 10 trips he took to investigate Munyenyezi. “She should have to face the consequences of those actions in the country where those crimes were committed. She has to go back to Rwanda, and I want to be there when that happens.”
As for Munyenyezi’s neighbors on Howe Street, the accusations and conviction against her were unsettling. “It makes you think, ‘How well do you know anyone who is living next door to you?’” LoriAnn Silver says. “To us, she was just Bea.”