David Sousa faced a judge in Fall River Superior Court Tuesday on murder charges for allegedly strangling his then-girlfriend Lisa Mello in November 2012.
Mello's body was found inside her Ocean Grove Avenue home when a relative went to check on her at about 5:30 a.m.
State police detectives and Swansea police began their first murder investigation in town since 2006.
At first, an autopsy was inconclusive. But then in October, Sousa was indicted by a Bristol County grand jury. He was held in Rhode Island for violating probation and finally returned to Massachusetts this week.
Mello's family attended Tuesday's arraignment, but left the courthouse quietly. A neighbor said she's still surprised over the alleged murder and Sousa's arrest.
The couple had spent many years together at the white shingled home facing Swansea's Town Beach.
Mello was 51 at the time of her death. An obituary says she had been a cook for seven years at a Barrington restaurant.
Sousa, 54, is being held without bail.
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