Another Murder In Sharon

Update 08.24.12: Torrington Police have confirmed to the Waterbury Republican American that they have “turned over to state police information about a person of interest in the case who has a history of drug arrests.”

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Murders are a rarity in these parts. Indeed, serious crime is unusual in Connecticut’s Northwest Corner, where state police activity often centers more on DUIs and domestic disturbances than anything else.

But a violent crime earlier this week has shaken not only the town of Sharon but just about everyone in the area. Luke Vitalis, 24, was shot and killed early Monday evening inside his mother’s home on Route 4 near Ellsworth Hill.

Since Luke was singled out and it seems robbery was not a motive, I suspected immediately the motive was drugs. And from what I’ve been able to tell to this point, my initial instincts were correct.

Luke’s friends have started a Facebook page in his memory. Several members have written openly of Luke’s career as a drug dealer and no one has challenged those assertions. So I think it’s safe to say that the young man was selling. And, at 24, he was likely a low-level drug dealer.

Maybe he owed money to the two men who killed him and they wanted to make a statement. Or perhaps it was a turf war. Or maybe Luke had been persuaded by police to become an informant and the killers wanted to make sure he stopped ratting. At any rate, it’s unlikely the attackers were local. They were probably higher up the food chain in the drug world: Bridgeport, Hartford or NYC.

My heartfelt condolences go out to Luke’s family. I have sympathy for Luke as well, but my sympathy is limited. After all, if you’re an adult who has decided to become a drug dealer, then you have to know that the risk of deadly violence is an occupational hazard.

Crime watchers in the NWC may recall Sharon’s last murder — that of Floyd Ellis, who in 2004 was found face down in the Webatuck Creek a short distance from the Sharon Valley Tavern, where he was seen four days earlier shortly before he was reported missing. All indications are that Ellis’ murder was drug-related as well. That case remains unsolved.

You have to wonder if the same thing will happen here. This is not a case of a random home invasion of the kind we saw at the Petit home in Cheshire five years ago. This is a sad event — most likely a criminal targeted by other criminals. The Connecticut State Police is a highly professional organization, but the people who run the department are humans and are as susceptible to political pressure as anyone else. If public pressure exerts a tremendous force on them, then they will respond by allocating commensurate resources.

The case is still hot. But my guess is the killers will be hard to find. They likely fled over one of the state borders and back to the anonymity of the big city. At this point, the police haven’t released a composite sketch, nor have they even offered a description of the escape vehicle. Were there no witnesses who got a good look? Or are they afraid to come forward?

Will the case be solved? Or, as with Ellis, will it fade from public consciousness because of the social status of the victims and the perpetrators?

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