Conway — February 17, 2009 — The second jury to wrestle with the double homicide case of Freedom handyman Sean Fitzpatrick was lodged in deliberations for four days last week and is expected to go into a fifth as the Massachusetts court reopens Tuesday.
Prosecutors say the love-struck 46-year-old shot to death his Ossipee Lake neighbor and close friend, Michael Zammitti Jr., 39, and innocent bystander, Chester Roberts, 54. The March 13, 2006 killing at Zammitti’s Massachusetts concrete plant was born of a desperate bid by Fitzpatrick to reignite an adulterous love affair with Zammitti’s wife, Michelle, prosecutors said.
The first jury to hear the case in August in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Mass., trudged for days through a hopeless deadlock. Judge Kathe Tuttman first instructed jurors to attempt to work through their impasse, only to later declare a mistrial.
Fitzpatrick was affectionately called “Uncle Sean” by Zammitti’s young children, who spent happy summers with their parents and grandparents at the Zammitti vacation compound across Intervale Road from Fitzpatrick’s. It was there on the shores of Ossipee Lake he lived as a close family friend and eventually plotted to cover up a murder, prosecutors said.
With a third trial unlikely, the latest hold-up had local investigators Monday concerned Fitzpatrick could walk free. It’s seldom a good sign for the prosecution when a jury stays silent for long stretches.
“It would to be a shame,” said Freedom police chief Josh Shackford Monday.
Shackford, who testified last week about a string of Freedom petty crimes allegedly orchestrated by Fitzpatrick to cloud the murder investigation, said out-of-town police on the case were happy with the latest jury pool, made up of “intelligent people.”
But if this jury ends up like the last one, which derailed when at least one juror refused to convict without more solid evidence, “Maybe they’ll change their minds,” he said.
Unlike in the first trial, Fitzpatrick did not take the stand after his new trial opened last month. His lawyer, Randy Gioia, says he was asleep at home at the time the victims died.
“Mr. Fitzpatrick expected the jury would find him not guilty,” said Gioia after the mistrial.
But prosecutors allege Fitzpatrick stole a truck from a kind-hearted Freedom neighbor and drove 100 miles south to Allstate Concrete Pumping in Wakefield, Mass., pulled the trigger, and returned home, even reporting that morning to an elderly neighbor that Zammitti was dead.
Investigators say they tracked his truck route south by tollbooth surveillance video and assembled a string of forensic evidence, including his saliva allegedly left on a love note to Zammitti’s wife.
Seeking to cover his tracks and baffle police, prosecutors claim Fitzpatrick perpetrated a rash of Freedom burglaries and sent Allstate a note promising more deaths to make the killing appear business-related.
The two bodies were found by Zammitti Sr. He first found Roberts, an employee, shot in the back, and then went looking for his son, who he discovered dead, shot in the head and the side with a shotgun.
“I called 911 and started screaming for Michael,” Zammitti Sr. cried out, he testified on the witness stand, according to jurorthirteen.com. “I ran upstairs into the office and saw Michael shot through the head. I kissed him and told him I loved him and called my wife to tell her what happened.”
Afterwards, Michelle Zammitti cooperated with police, attempting to squeeze incriminating statements out of her jilted ex-lover in a secretly recorded phone call.
Across the street from the Zammitti compound sat Fitzpatrick’s home until 2007, when it burned to the ground as Fitzpatrick sat in jail. Investigators were left groping in vain for conclusive evidence of a new crime. The fire was ruled arson, but like in many arson cases, a suspect never materialized.
The Zammittis filed a wrongful death suit against Fitzpatrick in Carroll County Superior Court that was put on hold pending the outcome of the criminal trial. The Zammittis also convinced a judge to put a $2.5 million freeze on Fitzpatrick’s assets.
The true crime tale lured Court TV to chronicle the case and sent Dateline NBC cameras to sleepy Freedom for a special to be aired nationwide after the trial.