Freedom — July 17, 2009 — A love-murder case involving a Freedom man will headline the Dateline NBC show Friday. [View preview at the bottom of this page]. Sean Fitzpatrick, 50, was convicted last year of slaying 39-year-old Michael Zammitti Jr, the husband of Fitzpatrick’s former love interest, Michelle Zammitti.
Fitzpatrick lived on Intervale Road on Ossipee Lake across the street from the Zammitti family vacation compound and had been close with two generations of the family for years.
The content of the 9 p.m. Dateline NBC special centers on the investigation that shattered an elaborate cover-up and brought Fitzpatrick to justice. Across two hours the episode spans the March 2006 face-to-face shotgun killing at the family’s Wakefield Mass. concrete company, Fitzpatrick’s staged burglaries and phony threat notes sent to the family, to the emotional courtroom reading of the verdict.
“We’re taking people through the maze of possibilities of leads and suspects,” said producer Bob Gilmartin.
When Michelle Zammitti refused to rekindle their old romance, Fitzpatrick hatched a tangled scheme to wipe away his competition. He drove from Freedom to Wakefield in a Freedom neighbor’s truck, paying cash at tolls and then returning calmly to his old neighborhood, engaging neighbors with small talk about the killing.
“I said something like, ‘I don’t know what type of person would do that?'” former neighbor Bill Dix told The Conway Daily Sun he remarked to Fitzpatrick shortly after the grisly shooting 100 miles away. “He said, ‘You never know’, something to that effect.”
Chester Roberts, 51, an innocent employee who bore witness to the murder, was also killed, shot in the back. The show hones in on police as they piece together clues, many left intentionally by Fitzpatrick as a smokescreen. He carried out a rash of Freedom burglaries and wrote a threatening note to the Zammittis: “Close the business now or lose more family.”
With the scandal-plagued, mafia-tinged Boston Big Dig under way, police were first thinking the daylight killing in a concrete business was a mob hit, an angle that dissipated as they burrowed into Fitzpatrick’s psyche and his deception began to unravel, Gilmartin said.
“As one cop told us, ‘Behind every door we opened there was nothing there until we opened up the door to Sean Fitzpatrick,” Gilmartin said.
Half the show will focus on testimony from two trials. The first ended in hung jury and the second threatened the same result as it dragged on with the jury for days.
When the verdict came, “It was the most chilling part,” Gilmartin said.
“Fitzpatrick looked at the jury and said, ‘You got the wrong man’. He kept repeating over and over again,” Gilmartin said. “We highlighted his mouth.”
Across the courtroom six police officers restrained the victim’s father, Michael Zammitti Sr., who couldn’t contain a “guttural from the belly, painful eruption,” Gilmartin said. “I still hear it my head.”
“The Zammittis were the most wonderful people,” he said. “He and Michael were best friends.They spent so much time together.”
When Michael Sr. discovered the body, “He went up to his son and kissed him on the lips,” Gilmartin said.
Footage of North Country splendor was provided to the show by the local RSN TV.
“It’s great to help them, and it’s always fun to see the White Mountains on a national stage,” said station manager Chris Proulx.
The special was originally set in a one-hour time slot, but was boosted to two because the details of the law enforcement investigation were so gripping, Gilmartin said.