Richard Lapointe (Oct. 18, 1945 – Aug. 4, 2020) died of corona virus complications. “He eventually tested negative for the virus, but could not outlive its complications.”
Richard was born with Dandy Walker syndrome. This syndrome causes a malformation of the head. Fluids build up and place pressure on the brain. It is a hereditary condition that causes abnormal brain development and affects coordination, speech, memory, and abstract thinking.
Richard’s condition went untreated until at fifteen, he had a shunt inserted to relieve the pressure. He was mentally disabled as a result of Dandy Walker Syndrome.
On March 8, 1987, fire fighters were called to the Mayfair Gardens Elderly Housing Complex, Manchester, Connecticut. They found Mrs. Bernice Martin (88) barely breathing and badly beaten. She died later that evening in the hospital.
The fire department found the front door locked but the glass sliding door in the back was open. The curtain that should have been on the sliding door was on the floor. A pried open latch on the rear screen door was clearly the point of entry. Mrs. Martin was lying near the entrance of the bedroom, naked, except for some shredded clothing on her upper body. There was a piece of red fabric tied to a piece of bluish gray fabric tightly knotted with Boy Scout knots around her neck and arms.
Mrs. Martin had 10 less severe stab wounds in the back, and 1 three-inch deep stab wound in the abdomen. All Mrs. Martin’s wounds were suffered while she was still alive. During the autopsy, the medical examiner concluded that Mrs. Martin had been strangled with a blunt object. There was also evidence of sexual assault; however, a blunt object caused the vaginal trauma. No semen was found in her body. The blunt weapon was never found.
A pair of men’s gloves was found in the bedroom. The left glove was found on the left side of the bed above the bloodstain. The right glove was found to the left of the bed on the floor. They did not belong to Mrs. Martin. The attacker had set several fires. One was set on the living room couch, one near the refrigerator door handle, and one near a kitchen drawer handle. Unfortunately, no fingerprints were found.
In 1992, Richard A. Lapointe was sentenced to life plus 60 years for this 1987 rape-murder. A new trial was ordered in Oct 2012. The Connecticut Supreme Court heard the State’s appeal Sept 17, 2013. On March 31, 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a retrial. On Oct 2, 2015, on International Wrongful Conviction Day, Richard Lapointe was set free. The judge ruled that he cannot be retried.
With Richard Lapointe exonerated, we again face a cold case. There is a rape kit and evidence pieces for further testing.
Someone killed Bernice Martin in 1987. I sincerely hope that her case will not be forgotten.
After his exoneration, Richard lived with a family in East Hartford, CT, and later moved into a nursing home. Richard was the son of Rosaire and Mildred Lapointe. He was a Boston Red Sox fan, loved seafood salad, and enjoyed other people’s company. He was 74 years old.
It was my absolute honor to assist Richard’s defense team to expose police and prosecutorial misconduct in his case. It featured for years in my law classes both at UIUC College of Law in Illinois and at Virginia Tech in the Political Science department.
Rest in peace, Richard Lapointe.