Boston – July 27, 2008 – When two men were found shot to death inside the office of a Wakefield concrete company, investigators initially looked for problems at the small, family-run business. But Michael Zammitti Jr., 39, the company’s president, and Chester Roberts, 51, a part-time handyman and driver, did not appear to have any debts or major business disputes.
Within weeks, investigators found a much more personal motive for the killings: an affair between Zammitti’s wife and a family friend, Sean Fitzpatrick, who lived near the couple’s lakeside vacation home in the tiny town of Freedom, N.H.
On Monday, jury selection begins in Fitzpatrick’s murder trial at Middlesex Superior Court. Fitzpatrick, 44, is accused of killing Michael Zammitti in a fit of jealousy in March 2006 after Michelle Zammitti broke off their affair and told him she would not leave her husband.
They say Roberts was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Prosecutors say he walked into work at Allstate Concrete Pumping right after Fitzpatrick shot Zammitti with a 16-gauge shotgun. Michelle Zammitti is expected to be a key witness for prosecutors at Fitzpatrick’s trial.
Fitzpatrick’s lawyer, Randy Gioia, would not discuss the motive alleged by prosecutors.
“Sean Fitzpatrick has always maintained his innocence and he’s looking forward to the trial,” Gioia said Friday.
Fitzpatrick spent so much time with the Zammittis that their three young children called him “Uncle Sean.” Michelle Zammitti at first told authorities she had developed an “emotional relationship” with Fitzpatrick, but later admitted that their friendship became physical in 2005.
In August 2005, after Michael Zammitti’s mother caught Michelle and Fitzpatrick in an embrace, the Zammittis began marriage counseling sessions, Michelle Zammitti told investigators. She said their marriage started to improve, but Fitzpatrick continued to urge her to leave her husband.
In February 2006, Michelle Zammitti met with Fitzpatrick and told him that “as long as Michael did not leave her she was staying with Michael,” prosecutors said in court documents.
Two weeks later, the Zammitti family went to New Hampshire for the weekend. Michael Zammitti and Fitzpatrick had a chance encounter while both were driving all-terrain vehicles on frozen Ossipee Lake, but prosecutors said they don’t know what the two men talked about.
The following Monday, Zammitti’s father, Michael Zammitti Sr., discovered his bodies of his son and Roberts when he arrived at work.
Prosecutors accuse Fitzpatrick of stealing a neighbor’s truck and driving about 100 miles from his home in New Hampshire to Zammitti’s company in Wakefield, They say he walked into the second-floor office and shot Zammitti twice as he sat at his desk, first on his right side, then in the head.
Roberts was found laying at the bottom of the stairs. Prosecutors believe he walked in to work, saw Fitzpatrick, and may have been attempting to flee when he was shot in the back.
The killings shocked people in Freedom, N.H., where both the elder Zammitti and his son had vacation homes on Ossipee Lake, in the same subdivision as Fitzpatrick, a year-round resident.
The town has about 1,500 year-round residents, a volunteer fire department and a police department of three. The population swells to about 10,000 in the summer when tourists and owners of summer homes visit.
“This is a very small rural town, and to have something like this happen was very surprising,” said Donna Cupka, chairwoman of the town’s board of selectmen.
The Zammitti family had a vacation home in Freedom for several decades. They participated in the town’s annual Old Home Week parade and were well-known in town. Fitzpatrick, a driver for a restaurant supply store, lived in a house his aunt left him.
After the killings, police determined that a green pickup truck parked outside a house in the Zammitti’s New Hampshire neighborhood was seen near Zammitti’s company in Wakefield the morning of the murders. A surveillance video from a business located near Zammitti’s company shows the truck driving toward the company minutes before the killings and leaving 10 minutes later.
Toll records showed that the truck traveled north through a toll lane on Route 16 in Dover, N.H. — the most direct route between Freedom and Wakefield — about 40 minutes after the bodies were discovered, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said DNA found on a sympathy card Fitzpatrick sent to Michelle Zammitti after her husband’s death matches DNA found on the steering wheel of the truck, one of the keys to the truck and on an anonymous threatening note that was sent to Michael Zammitti’s father after the killings.
Authorities believe the note, which said “Close Now or Lose More Family,” was sent to make investigators believe Zammitti’s slaying was related to the family business.