Lapointe: DNA does not match

Mrs. Bernice Martin

Who left his DNA behind: Richard A. Lapointe or Frederick Rodney Merrill?

We have new developments that could shed a light on the case of Bernice Martin and could once and for all clear up who left his DNA. We already know it wasn’t Lapointe.

The Connecticut State Board of Pardons and Paroles decided last week to grant Frederick Rodney Merrill parole after he had served 50% of his last sentence.

Yes, just 50%.

John DeFeo, executive director of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the special conditions placed on Merrill will include:

•Requiring him to attend treatment for problem sexual behavior.

•Frequent reporting to his parole unit, probably multiple times per week.

•Electronic monitoring, possibly with a GPS device that tracks his locations in real-time.

•Having a job, but not one even remotely connected to children.

•Having no contact with any of his victims or their families.

DeFeo said Merrill’s parole unit will decide the frequency of his reporting and the precise type of electronic monitor that will be used. “I expect it will be pretty intense,” DeFeo said of the frequency of Merrill’s reporting.

It better be.

Merrill has a violent history and should have been suspect #1 in the murder of Bernice Martin, not Lapointe.

Why?

An eyewitness whose statements were never taken serious by police placed a man looking like Merrill at the crime scene where Bernice Martin lost her life.

Paulette DeRocco stated years ago that shortly after 8:00pm (while Lapointe was on the phone with Karen) she drove down North Main Street by the Mayfair Gardens Elderly Housing Complex when a man coming from the driveway leading to the senior housing complex, ran directly in front of her car. She almost struck him and swirled to avoid him.

Her statement verbatim: “I almost struck this man when he ran out in front of me. I had a red light at the intersections of North Main and Main Streets so I stopped. I then saw this man continue to run southeast and ran behind a brick building, 150 No. Main St. That driveway that this man had come from was the same one I saw the State Police Crime Van parked at the very next day on my way to work. When I swerved to miss this man with my car he never even looked up or turned around….This man was a white male about 35-40 years old, about 5’10-5’11, black hair that was straight and looked a mess, like he needed a haircut. Med build not fat or skinny. He was wearing navy blue pants (dark), a chamois type shirt that had the tails hanging out which was dark navy blue, long-sleeved, black shoes not sneakers, and I didn’t see him carrying anything in his hands. I saw his face from the side and I don’t recall any facial hair.” The jury was never made aware of this evidence and police did not follow-up on this information either.

Freshly out of prison in early 1987, Mr. Merrill was seen in a pub near Mrs. Martin’s apartment on the weekend of the murder. Just three days later, Mr. Merrill broke into a home in South Windsor, less than three miles from the Martin crime scene, and assaulted a middle-aged woman in a manner uncannily similar. In both cases, the assailant beat the victim, tied her up with ligatures and sexually assaulted her with a blunt instrument. Mrs. Martin was stabbed and strangled. The South Windsor assault was interrupted by a family member who had been sleeping in another room.

Mrs. Martin’s assailant set her apartment on fire. When interrupted in South Windsor, Mr. Merrill was carrying sheets toward a kerosene heater.

Merrill was arrested and charged the next day with breaking into a South Windsor home and beating and raping a woman. While awaiting trial in prison in Somers, Merrill scaled a wall by using hooks made from bedsprings and staged his third escape from Connecticut institutions. Police said he broke into Enfield homes, stole items, eluded police and fled to Canada.

Merrill was sent to the former state prison farm in Enfield. On Christmas Day 1967, he escaped for the first time by placing a dummy on his bed, climbing a fence and fleeing to his mother’s house in Tolland, where state police were waiting. He fled but was shot when he tried to slash one of the troopers.

In 1968, his mother, Gladys, brought him a Christmas present — a container of peanut butter that contained a small gun, money and a handcuff key. On his way to court Dec. 19, he pulled the gun on his guards. Handcuffing them, he commandeered a vehicle until he was stopped at a police roadblock where he surrendered. The stunt earned him the nickname “Peanut Butter Bandit.'”

Merrill was arrested in Canada 1988 without a struggle at the New Brunswick apple orchard where he worked. Canadian authorities charged Merrill with the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl during a Toronto crime spree. Merrill pleaded guilty but escaped a Toronto jail by sliding down a 60-foot drain pipe. He was caught and began serving a 12-year sentence in Canada in 1989.

Another escape attempt was foiled when Canadian jailers found a hacksaw blade, rope and a grappling hook hidden in his cell. Even more baffling is where he got all that! After his return to Connecticut in 2002 he pleaded guilty to the South Windsor sexual assault and escape and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He became eligible for parole this month because he had served 50 percent of his sentence.

Considering that

  1. Merrill fits the description Mrs. DeRocco gave police, a piece of information they never followed up on
  2. and that he was seen in the neighbourhood pub
  3. and that he was caught for the other attack that happened in a similar way as the attack on Bernice Martin
  4. and the DNA strands have not been identified yet

it just might be a good idea to compare them to Merrill’s. Another question that bothers me is why these two strands have not been run through the FBI’s DNA Database yet!

On a pair of gloves found in Mrs. Martin’s bedroom three partial DNA profiles were found that did not match Lapointe. Also, a pubic hair found on Mrs. Martin’s sweater contained mitochondrial DNA — the DNA contributed by the individual’s mother that did not match either Lapointe or Mrs. Martin.

Because it didn’t prove Lapointe’s innocence, it was not enough to earn him a new trial. However, the state of Connecticut is now required to take DNA samples from persons convicted of felonies at the time of sentencing. State Department of Correction spokesman Brian Garnett said the department in recent years has taken samples from persons such as Mr. Merrill who were incarcerated before the law went into effect.

Can we test it? The case against Lapointe was all about closing the Martin file. But that is not what justice is about. Justice is about seeking the truth even if she was kept hidden in three partial DNA profiles. You can get an overview of the case and why I believe Lapointe is wrongfully convicted here.

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