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Archive for the ‘STABBINGS’ Category

By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: August 06, 2009

The Keene State College student who was knifed at a fraternity party last year described the attack Wednesday during the first day of trial for the Winchester man accused in the stabbing.

Justin Ranucci took the stand in Cheshire County Superior Court and testified he is certain Gary Duquette stabbed him outside the Alpha Pi Tau fraternity house at 29 Coolidge St. the night of July 22, 2008. He pointed across the courtroom at Duquette, who wore a dark suit, and identified him as his attacker.

Duquette is charged with four counts of first-degree assault alleging he stabbed Ranucci at least twice in the back and once in the chest and leg. First-degree assault carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

The jury of nine women and five men, which includes two alternates, visited the house where the stabbing occurred before they heard opening statements from Assistant Cheshire County Attorney John S. Webb and defense attorney Nathan R. Lynch of Walpole. Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Keith W. Clouatre is also prosecuting Duquette.

While Webb told jurors that Ranucci, then 19, and Duquette, then 24, faced off head-to-head, Lynch said they were involved in a drunken brawl reminiscent of a Wild West bar fight. He suggested that someone else stabbed Ranucci during the melee.

“It should be clear by the end of the trial that the state has no idea who stabbed Justin Ranucci,” Lynch said.

The only state witness who can identify Duquette as the stabber is Ranucci, despite the number of potential witnesses who attended the party, Lynch said. He also said Ranucci was drinking heavily and smoking marijuana the night of the fight.

Partygoer Brooke L. McLain testified that the fight broke out inside the fraternity house between members of the fraternity and a group of people she’d never met. Then the fight spilled out the front door and into the street before the stabbing.

“They all rushed out the front door and started beating each other,” she said.

After seeing a fraternity brother punched in the face and laid out on a car, McLain said she decided to leave the party. She was gone during the stabbing.

Between 20 and 25 people ended up fighting in the street, Ranucci said.

He said he was jumped when he tried to help a friend who was being kicked and punched by at least four people. He said he eventually escaped that beating and was walking back toward the fraternity house when Duquette stepped in front of him and got in his face.

A man who was hanging out with Duquette earlier during the party — Ranucci said he had seen Duquette breaking beer bottles over the man’s head — yelled for Duquette to “Grab the knuckles!” and “Stab him! Stab him!” Ranucci said.

Ranucci said he turned toward the man, who was not named in court, and when he looked back toward Duquette the stabbing began.

“I’ve been punched plenty of times in the past. I know what that feels like,” he said. “When he was throwing the blows and punches it felt different. It was more internal. It felt hot. It felt like it went through me.”

Ranucci’s friend Justin Bronner, then 22, was also stabbed when he tried to help Ranucci, police said. But no one has been charged with stabbing Bronner, who suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from the hospital hours after the attack.

Ranucci spent eight days in the hospital and underwent emergency surgery after the stabbing.

“I have a giant scar down my stomach now because they had to cut me open and go through my intestines to make sure anything else wasn’t hit,” he said.

A digital photograph taken during the party and later posted on a social networking Web site helped lead police to Duquette, Webb said. In the photo, Duquette is wearing a baseball cap, backward and crooked, and the man who Ranucci said instigated the stabbing is leaning toward the camera and sticking out his tongue.

McLain testified that she e-mailed the photo to Keene police detective Donald Lundin. Ranucci also received an e-mail of the photo from a friend, and said he felt sick when he first saw it and recognized Duquette as his attacker.

“I had to put it away,” he said. “I couldn’t look at it.”

Lundin later showed Ranucci a photo lineup and Ranucci pointed out Duquette. Lynch is arguing that the lineup was tainted because Ranucci had already seen a photo of Duquette.

Lynch said Ranucci wants someone to pay for the stabbing, and he and his other college friends dislike “townies,” or locals.

“This case is really going to come down to the credibility of witnesses,” he said. “You’ll have to ask yourself if there’s any motive or bias.”

The trial, which is scheduled for three days, continues today.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: June 17, 2009

BRATTLEBORO — The man accused of murdering a stranger on a Brattleboro street pleaded not guilty to the crime Tuesday during an emotional hearing in Windham District Court.

Andrew E. Sheets, 41, of Brattleboro was arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder as about 30 family members and friends of the slain David T. Snow, 26, sat in the courtroom seething.

Sheets’ mother and a few other relatives also attended the hearing, sitting together among empty chairs on the defense’s side of the courtroom, across from the packed benches behind the prosecution.

Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy K. Shriver asked during the hearing that Sheets be held without bail because he has criminal records in Massachusetts and Florida that date back to 1987 and include arrests for aggravated assault, resisting arrest, drug possession and weapons possession.

Shriver also said Sheets has deep roots in the Sunshine State but apparently minimal ties to Vermont, where he could face life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

Shriver described Snow’s death as an “extreme act of random violence.”

Sheets’ attorney during the hearing, Darah Kehnemuyi, did not argue for bail because he was filling in for another attorney, Kerry DeWolfe, who will actually handle Sheets’ case. DeWolfe may still ask for a bail hearing.

After Judge Karen R. Carroll ordered Sheets held without bail, a sheriff’s deputy began to lead him from the courtroom and Snow’s aunt, Lori Adler of Hinsdale, stood and screamed “Coward!”

“Everywhere I look, there’s nothing but victims — everyone David touched,” Adler said in a phone interview today. “Now they’re saying it could be two years before (Sheets) could go to trial. I don’t know how I’m going to keep my family together.”

Sheets was drunk and had been using cocaine before he stabbed Snow in the neck early Monday morning while arguing with Snow’s brother, Travis Sprague, 18, on Elliot Street near the entrance of the Brattleboro Transportation Center, according to police affidavits.

Snow had been walking a dog with his roommate when he saw Sheets, whom he didn’t know, in a confrontation with Sprague, who called out that Sheets had a knife, according to police.

Snow came to Sprague’s aid and Sheets swung a knife at him, slicing open his shirt; Snow then tried to punch Sheets, who lunged again and stabbed his neck, witnesses told police.

Witnesses also said Snow died in Sprague’s arms on Elliot Street.

Snow’s fiancee, Judy Brown, 23, was by Snow’s side after the stabbing. She held his hand as he died.

Snow proposed to Brown the day before he was killed, according to Adler.

“They were trying to save up for their own place. He was trying to get back on his feet to have a place for his daughter,” Adler said. “He loved his family so much.”

Snow’s 5-year-old daughter, Keyaira, lives with her grandfather. She is unaware of what happened to her father, Adler said.

“They still don’t know how to tell her,” she said. “I mean, how do you tell that to a 5 year old?”

Snow, who lived with Brown in a modest apartment on Elm Street in Brattleboro, was also a father figure to Brown’s young son and daughter, according to neighbor Joyce Baker.

“He was just a really nice guy. We’d sit out on the porch and laugh and talk,” she said. “He seemed very respectful and (Brown’s) babies really seemed to like him.”

Adler and others who knew Snow said they were not surprised when they learned he died protecting Sprague.

“Even if it wasn’t his brother, he would have taken that knife for a total stranger,” Adler said. “He was always sticking up for the underdog. He was just an all-around good person who would give you the shirt off his back.”

Snow’s family is planning a cookout and bonfire this weekend in his honor. Snow’s remains will be cremated later and his ashes will be buried with his grandmother at a plot in Hinsdale, she said.

As Snow’s relatives and friends struggle to grasp the killing, employees at True Value Hardware on Putney Road in Brattleboro are still reeling from the news that a co-worker is accused of murder.

Joanna Babbitt, a cashier at the store, said she’d worked alongside Sheets for about three months before he was arrested in connection with Snow’s death.

“He was a friendly guy, seemed very normal, that’s why it was such a surprise,” she said. “No one here is saying much about it. They’re still in shock.”

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: June 16, 2009

BRATTLEBORO — A car had already driven over the flowers marking the faded blood stain on Elliot Street in Brattleboro, scattering red petals across the pavement Monday afternoon.

Now Carl Dunchus refused to budge from the makeshift memorial for his daughter’s dead fiance, even though a police officer in a marked cruiser was telling him to back away. He was causing a disturbance, the officer said, and he needed to move.

Friends of the slain David T. Snow, 26, watched from the sidewalk as Dunchus stood his ground, arguing for a moment with the officer before he was handcuffed and led to the back of the cruiser.

“I understand it was a tragedy, but … ” the officer said as he walked with Dunchus, his voice trailing off. The two men stopped and spoke for a moment. Then the handcuffs came off.

The officer slid back into the driver’s seat of the cruiser as Dunchus moved the flowers a little closer to the curb so other vehicles would not drive over them. When the cruiser pulled away, Dunchus remained at his post on the street.

“I’ll stay here for the rest of the day, at least,” he said, watching the traffic glide past.

***

Police say Andrew E. Sheets stabbed Snow in the neck during an argument that erupted early Monday morning.

Sheets, 41, of Brattleboro now faces a charge of second-degree murder.

Snow was walking a dog with his roommate when he saw Sheets arguing with his brother, Travis Sprague, 18, and was stabbed as he tried to intervene, according to witnesses.

They said Snow staggered across Elliot Street and Sprague held him at the patch of pavement that would become sacred ground for Dunchus and others who knew Snow.

“He was a decent kid. He’d give you the shirt off his back,” Dunchus said. “He gave his own life to protect his little brother.”

Snow had asked Dunchus’ daughter, Judy Brown, 23, to marry him the day before he died. The two shared a modest apartment in Brattleboro with Brown’s two children and other roommates.

Heather Sprague of Hinsdale got a phone call from Travis Sprague, her younger brother, a few hours after Snow was pronounced dead at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. He was hysterical.

“I couldn’t understand half the things he said because he was bawling. He said his brother had been murdered. He said he died in his arms,” she said.

“Travis said he took his sweatshirt off, wrapped it around David’s neck and tried to put pressure on it. David told Travis he felt dizzy and he knew he was going to die.”

Snow left behind a young daughter who lives with one of her grandparents, Heather Sprague said.

“He just really wanted to be a good dad for his daughter,” she said.

***

Travis Sprague told police that Sheets, whom he didn’t know, had repeatedly asked him and his group of friends for money to buy cocaine, and then accused them of stealing from him before the stabbing.

Sprague also told Brattleboro police Lt. Michael W. Carrier that he’d seen Sheets ride a bicycle into the path of a vehicle, yell at the occupants for ripping him off and then stab one of the vehicle’s tires with a knife.

Later, Sheets was still holding a knife when Brattleboro police Officer Joshua Lynde stopped on Elliot Street moments after Snow was stabbed, according to Lynde’s affidavit.

“I walked over to Sheets and he got down on his knees and then (lay) out across the ground without me saying anything to him,” Lynde wrote.

“Sheets said he did it because they wanted to fight him. As I walked up I kicked a small switch blade knife away from Sheets.”

Sheets smelled of alcohol after the stabbing and said he was using cocaine, according to Brattleboro police detective Erik Johnson.

***

A shackled Sheets appeared Monday in Windham District Court and invoked his right to withhold a plea for 24 hours.

He said nothing during the brief hearing and kept his head lowered when he entered the courtroom.

Some of Snow’s family members and friends hissed barely audible curses when they first saw Sheets. Some sobbed and hugged in the hallway after the hearing.

Sheets was scheduled to return to the courtroom today and enter a plea. He is being held without bail.

Sheets’ lawyer, Darah Kehnemuyi of Brattleboro, argued during Monday’s hearing that Brattleboro police should wait until after today’s arraignment to photograph and examine Sheets’ body for evidence.

But Judge Karen R. Carroll said investigators should be allowed to examine Sheets as soon as possible because he is claiming self-defense in the incident.

Investigators must check his body for bruises, scratches or other marks that could help substantiate or refute his claim, she said.

Travis Sprague told police that no one provoked Sheets. He said Snow tried to punch Sheets, but only after Sheets lunged at him with a knife, slashing his shirt. He said Sheets then stabbed Snow in the neck and said, “I told you.”

Sheets has a criminal record in Florida, where he was sentenced in March 2007 to a year and a half in prison for fleeing police without regard for the public’s safety.

He was released from prison after serving less than eight months.

If convicted of second-degree murder, Sheets could be sent to prison for 20 years to life.

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The U.S. government several years ago tried to deport a registered sex offender who now is accused of murder, but the Cuban government refused to cooperate with immigration officials, immigration officials said Monday.

Ronnie Perez is accused of fatally stabbing a Cape Coral man last month.

Perez, 26, was convicted in the sexual assault of an underage victim in 2001 and released from state prison after serving a 20-month sentence. He was then turned over to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Miami.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials obtained a judge’s signature on a final order of removal against Perez while he was in prison, said ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez.

“We did attempt to remove Perez to Cuba, however the Cuban government refused to issue a travel document,” she said. “We were required by law to release Perez.”

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme court ruled illegal immigrants could not be detained for more than 90 days if there is little chance they will be deported in the foreseeable future.

Perez was living in Cape Coral as an unemployed granite installer when he repeatedly stabbed William Lowell, 36, during an argument May 22, authorities said. He remains in the Lee County Jail on a charge of second-degree homicide.

The Cuban government often refuses to cooperate with U.S. immigration agencies, said Gonzalez, adding that she could not speculate whether Perez’s criminal history influenced the decision to refuse a travel document.

“It is difficult to deport to Cuba, but not impossible,” she said. “The case doesn’t just go away after the person is released. We continue to assess those orders. We don’t drop everything.”

Perez completed a three-year probationary period April 2006 and continued to follow additional release conditions imposed by ICE, which required him to report to the agency’s local detention and removal office, said Gonzalez.

“Although we were required to release Perez, we took an extra step of imposing conditions on his release. He was on an order of supervision and he did follow those orders,” said Gonzalez, who could not provide details regarding Perez’s post-release conditions Monday.

Lowell’s wife, Tanya Lowell, said she was shocked to learn of Perez’s illegal status but declined to comment on the issue. She continues to search for answers in her husband’s death, questioning why her husband was with Perez and what the two men were arguing about that night.

Authorities have remained tight-lipped.

“They’re (CCPD) not telling me anything,” Lowell said Monday. “This is really draining me. I seem to be getting more information from the newspapers.”

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William Lowell’s throat was slashed and he was lying on the floor of his Cape Coral garage

William Lowell’s throat was slashed and he was lying on the floor of his Cape Coral garage bleeding to death as his attacker picked up a cell phone and dialed a friend for a ride home, according to an arrest report.

Police found Lowell’s body, riddled with stab wounds and unidentifiable, early June 22.

Lowell, 36, had been celebrating his son’s 12th birthday the night before. His wife, Tanya Lowell, brought their son and two daughters, ages 6 and 8, to his home on 2716 N.E. First Ave. She said they left at about 10:30 p.m. The Lowells had been living in separate residences two weeks before the incident.

Ronnie Perez, 26, arrived later that night and an argument erupted between he and William Lowell, according to Cape Coral Police Department detective Kurtis Grau’s report.

Grau does not indicate what ignited the dispute or why the men were together, but states that tensions escalated in the garage when Perez, now charged with second-degree homicide, attempted to leave.

“Perez states that he began to open the garage door via the wall-mounted opener and the victim told him to close it, which he did after he heard what he believed to be a firearm chambering a round,” wrote Grau.

During an initial interview with detectives, Perez reportedly said William Lowell pointed a gun at him. He later said he was unsure if William Lowell was armed, according to the report.

“Perez went back and forth several times on whether he saw a gun or not but could never be sure,” wrote Grau. “Perez stated that he grabbed a beer bottle and struck the victim in the face with it.”

Grau’s report details the violent struggle that ensued: William Lowell fell back onto a couch in the garage. He attempted to stand up and Perez placed his hand over his mouth, pushing him back down. William Lowell bit Perez’s left thumb. Perez reached for a knife lying nearby and began plunging it into William Lowell. Perez said he slashed William Lowell’s throat twice and stabbed him four or five times.

William Lowell suffered “extensive” lacerations, however the exact number of wounds are unknown as investigators await autopsy results.

Perez was covered in blood when he arrived home — he told his parents he’d been in a fight and might have killed someone, stated Grau. He then showered and had his parents drive him to the Cape Coral Police Department, where he allegedly confessed to the killing.

“Perez stated that he did not call an ambulance or the police for the victim because he was scared and he knew that the victim was dying,” wrote Grau.

Attempts to reach Perez’s family Thursday were unsuccessful.

An investigation into William Lowell’s death remains “open and active,” said police spokeswoman Dyan Lee. She declined to comment on the possibility of additional arrests in the case.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ

Cape Coral Daily Breeze: June 22, 2007

 

A Cape Coral man walked into the city’s police department early Friday morning, saying he possibly stabbed another man to death, authorities said.

 

Ronnie Perez, 26, of 1102 S.W. 41st Terrace is now in custody at the Lee County Jail on a charge of second-degree murder, said Cape Coral Police Department spokeswoman Dyan Lee.

 

Officers arrived at Tanya Lowell’s home on 2716 N.E. First Ave. after Perez’s reported confession at approximately 7 a.m. and found the victim, whose identity is being withheld pending notification from the medical examiner’s office, inside the garage, according to Lee.

 

“He was not breathing, had no pulse, and was bloody,” Lee wrote in a prepared statement issued late Friday night. “The victim had suffered extensive stab wounds, some of which appeared to be defensive in nature.”

 

Perez admitted that he repeatedly stabbed the victim during a fight because the man kept moving his arm as if he was attempting to “grab something,” Lee stated.

 

During the investigation, a K-9 unit searched the area around Lowell’s home for evidence as city utility workers and detectives pried open two concrete storm drain covers near the front lawn. 

 

Lowell was on the phone with a medical examiner at 5 p.m., more than 10 hours after authorities had a confession in the case, and said she was driving to the Cape Coral Police Department in search of answers. She wanted to know if the body in her garage was her 36-year-old husband William Lowell.

 

“I’m hoping they’ll finally give me some answers,” she said. “I don’t even know if it’s my husband or not.”

 

Tanya Lowell, 36, said she had not heard from her husband all day.

 

She answered a call at 7:30 p.m. after speaking with police, but said she was “overwhelmed” and did not want to talk. Authorities had not publicly identified the body in the Lowells’s garage.

 

William Lowell was employed as a home re-modeler in Lehigh Acres, according to a co-worker who arrived on scene. The co-worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was there to buy William Lowell’s blue Ford F-150, which sat in the driveway beside a white Ford Mustang, and pick up a generator in the garage. He said he’d known the Lowells for about four months and wasn’t aware of any problems between the couple or possible enemies.

 

Evidence markers flagging blood splatters began in the driveway between the F-150 pickup and the Mustang and led to the Lowells’s entry door. Detectives and a forensics unit processed the home throughout the day, ordering Pizza Hut delivery as the afternoon wore on.

 

William Lowell’s co-worker and his neighbors said they’d never seen the Mustang parked in the driveway before Friday. Investigators searched through the car, finding what appeared to be men’s clothing beneath carpeting in the trunk. They also processed the pickup.

 

The CCPD’s star K-9, “Jey,” led his handler through the vacant fields and streets near the Lowells’s home, but the seasoned German shepherd appeared to find nothing more than sand spurs. Searches of the nearby storm drains also appeared fruitless.

 

“They better figure something out soon,” said Jerald Koehn, 35, who resides one street West of the Lowells at 2703 N.E. Juanita Place. “I’m almost scared here. If they can’t figure out what happened to this guy, I’ll be freaked out.”

 

Koehn said he barely knew the Lowells, though his 6-year-old son sometimes played with their two young daughters and son.  He said he hadn’t seen or heard anything suspicious before the incident.

 

Although nearly every neighbor said the Lowells had three young children, authorities had not confirmed the information, said Lee.

 

“No one in the police force has been able to confirm kids lived there,” she said.

 

Matthew Kistner, 19, lives two blocks from the Lowells at 2734 N.E. Second Ave. Kistner said he was smoking a cigarette on his lanai around 2 a.m. Friday when he heard “yelling and fighting.”

 

A detective later interviewed Kistner on scene.

 

The case marked the Cape’s fifth homicide so far this year. There were six homicides last year and five the year before, according to the city’s Web site.

 

The Lowells’s small northeast Cape Coral neighborhood was abuzz with media and speculative neighbors as investigators combed the death scene.

 

Most residents were concerned about the welfare of the Lowells’s children, while others were discussing the mysterious death of a woman who lived on their street just weeks before.

 

Camille Lawler, 37, said she was renting a home just two doors down from the Lowells at 2702 N.E. First Ave. to 27-year-old Regina Borrow. Lawler said she discovered Borrow’s decomposing body inside the home March 31.

 

“You could smell the stench,” she said.

 

Lawler said she found a tooth and a broken window while cleaning the home after Borrow’s death and suspects foul play. The status of the investigation into Borrow’s death was not immediately available. 

 

Koehn’s wife, Kimberly Koehn, 32, said Borrow seemed fearful the night before she died.

 

“The night of, she came out and asked me if I’d seen anyone outside her house. It was strange the way she approached me that night in a panic,” she said. “She was really scared.”

 

Another neighbor, Joey Anderson, 26, said he’s lived in the area for about six months and wasn’t too concerned about the deaths, only curious.

 

“I’m from Boston. I’ve seen worse,” he said. “There we’re people dying right on my street.”

 

 

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