Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Montgomery murderer hangs self in Florida prison cell

James Richitelli, the man convicted of killing two Montgomery
residents in 2005, was found dead in his Florida prison cell Monday
after apparently hanging himself, state Corrections Commissioner Rob
Hofmann said Tuesday.

"I learned about it in mid-afternoon," Hofmann said. "We will review
the case but we have absolutely no indication that anything was amiss

Richitelli, 53, formerly of Eastford, Conn., pleaded guilty to
aggravated murder in November in connection with the killings of
Thomas Patras, 47 and Valerie Papillo, 36. Last month, however, he
had appealed his conviction to the Vermont Supreme Court.

An accomplice in the murders, Elizabeth Gagne, 31 formerly of
Willimantic, Conn., pleaded guilty in January to aiding in the
commission of second-degree murder and being an accessory after the
fact. She is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence.

Both victims were beaten and shot following separate struggles with
their assailants. Police said Patras was killed after he told
Richitelli, an acquaintance he had not seen in 20 years, that he did
not have 10 pounds of marijuana. Papillo was killed when she arrived
at Patras' house for dinner minutes later.

Hofmann said state Corrections officials regarded Richitelli as one
of the most dangerous inmates they had ever encountered and that was
why Richitelli was transferred to the federal system earlier this
year and placed at the high-security United States Penitentiary II in
Coleman, Fla. Vermont does not have a maximum security prison.

Richitelli was last seen alive at the Florida jail during a prison
head count at 4 p.m. on Monday, according to Heidi Tringe, a
spokeswoman for the Vermont Human Services Agency. He was found
hanging from the top bunk of his cell 23 minutes later and was
pronounced dead at 5:08 p.m. The Coleman jail is located 50 miles
northwest of Orlando.

"He was a very wily, manipulative, dangerous offender," Hofmann said
of Richitelli. "He was of great concern, I would say grave concern,
to us. He mocked the fact that Vermont did not have a death penalty."

Hofmann also said Richitelli had made plans to escape from the
Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans in the months
before he pleaded guilty to the aggravated murder count.

"He was plotting his escape with the help of outside parties,"
Hofmann said. "It took some excellent work to uncover it." He said
his department was "very relieved" once Richitelli was transferred to
the federal prison system.

Franklin County State's Attorney James Hughes called Richitelli a
violent person who had made threats to guards. "As a human being,
it's sad for anyone to take their own life, but it seems like that
was the road he chose."

Allison Fulcher, Richitelli's lawyer for his appeal to the Vermont
Supreme Court, declined comment upon learning of his suicide.

"I don't have any specific comment," she said. "It's always upsetting
to hear something like this."

Richitelli's death marked the first time a Vermont prison inmate has
committed suicide since 2004.

Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at


Anonymous said...

What the shame in all of this is that this guy got away with it. For all I have read this man was the definition of evil. My prayers go to Valeries family, I met her dad and he is a fine man, I hope this brings some kind of closure for him.

Anonymous said...

I still miss Valerie every day.

Jean Struzenski said...

This is from Valerie's mother. I just found this pageand I wish to comment.
This man was evil and I hope he is rotting in hell. He was not alone in his evil doings that day. If it were not for his partner Elizabeth Gagne handing James the gun to Kill Tom Valerie and Tom would be alive today. She handed him the gun again to shoot Valerie. She stood by and watched them both be murdered. Plea bargins got her only 15 year at the most. I hope she rots in Jail! Our justice system rots!