Detective’s Notebook Might Help Lapointe’s Case
By THOMAS D. WILLIAMS
The Hartford Courant
February 24, 2000
The notebook of the Manchester detective whose investigation led to the arrest of Richard Lapointe in the slaying of his wife’s 88-year-old grandmother is now being used in an attempt to overturn Lapointe’s murder conviction.
In Hartford Superior Court Wednesday, Simsbury attorney Henry “Ted” Vogt introduced into evidence Det. Paul Lombardo’s brown notebook containing statements from Lapointe. Vogt is arguing that some of those statements tend to clear Lapointe of the crime. Despite their significance, he argued, they were never supplied by the prosecution to the defense as required by law.
Vogt’s theory is that the notes show Lapointe was home having dinner when Bernice Martin was assaulted and strangled the night of March 8, 1987. The detective’s notes also “contradict the prosecution’s claim that Mr. Lapointe knew details about the crime that only the perpetrator could know,” Vogt argued.
Vogt is asking Senior Judge Samuel Freed for a new trial. But Assistant State’s Attorney Joanne Sulik is arguing that the notes do not offer the newly discovered evidence mandated for Lapointe to get that new trial. The hearings are expected to last for several weeks and continue today at 10 a.m.
Lapointe is serving a life term plus 60 years without the possibility of parole, a penalty he received Sept 6, 1992.
Vogt is attacking the 9 1/2-hour interrogation Lombardo and other police officers conducted at the Manchester police station on July 4, 1989. The session ended with what police claimed was a confession and what the defense contends was a coerced statement extracted from Lapointe without a defense lawyer present, or a recorder to document it.
The defense contends that police took advantage of Lapointe’s vulnerabilities as a small, awkward, mentally handicapped man. Lapointe has a rare congenital brain malformation called Dandy Walker Syndrome and is missing part of his brain.
Over the course of that July 4 evening, Lapointe signed more than one confession. In the first one, he says he was responsible for the murder, that it was an accident and his mind went blank. In the next, he says if the evidence shows he was there and killed Martin, “then I killed her, but I don’t remember being there.” Police then pushed for and got a more detailed statement, in which Lapointe says he sexually assaulted Martin, then stabbed her and strangled her.
In Lombardo’s notes of the second so-called confession, Lapointe admits to the killing, then says, “I went home to eat and Aunt Nat called, then I went back to the house.” This statement didn’t appear in the final version of Lapointe’s typewritten statement, eventually supplied to the defense.
Lapointe, his wife, Karen, and their son lived near Martin and had visited on the afternoon of the killing, leaving about 4 p.m. Karen Lapointe, who has since divorced Richard, testified at an earlier hearing that the family started dinner about 5:15 or 5:30 p.m.
But Martin’s daughter Natalie Howard, “Aunt Nat,” testified she drove by her mother’s apartment and saw her taking the trash out at 5:45 p.m. Howard’s husband was with her and thought it was a little earlier; a police report says Martin was seen “about 5:30 p.m.” If the witnesses are correct, Lapointe was home.
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