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Fugitives head home after Vermont slaying
Norwich Bulletin

DANIELSON-- James E. Richitelli and Elizabeth A. Gagne fled Vermont and began contacting acquaintances in Eastern Connecticut for assistance within hours after they allegedly killed two people in northern Vermont. The couple face two counts each of first-degree murder in the deaths of Valerie Papillo, 36, and Thomas Patras, 47, whose bodies were discovered at Patras' home in Montgomery, Vt. Both had been shot to death.

One of the first people the couple apparently contacted was William H. Diehl, 40, of 150 Harrisville Road, Woodstock.

According to Vermont state police, Diehl called the Connecticut state police barracks at Danielson Monday morning, telling them he had picked up Richitelli, 51, and Gagne, 29, because a pickup they were driving had broken down. Diehl said the couple told him an incident had occurred in Vermont and two people were killed. Diehl told police he drove Richitelli and Gagne to a motel in Massachusetts.

Vermont police said their investigation had determined Richitelli and Gagne were in Montgomery searching for Patras. After the murders were discovered, a Connecticut-registered pickup was found by Brattleboro, Vt., police at a gas station near Interstate 91.

Police said the Brattleboro officers saw what appeared to be dried blood inside the cab and alerted Vermont state police.

Massachusetts state police confirmed Richitelli and Gagne had stayed in a hotel in Springfield.

State police arrested Diehl Tuesday as a fugitive from justice. Connecticut state police said Vermont authorities have issued a warrant for him, charging him as an accessory after the fact of murder. He refused to waive extradition to Vermont during a court appearance Wednesday in Danielson, and his case was continued to Dec. 2.

As she was leaving the courthouse, Diehl's wife, Jennifer, told Channel 3's Kevin Hogan, "He was just helping a friend. He was with me when it happened and the police can tell you that."

Once information was made public Tuesday, calls to police led them to Gagne's rented home in Voluntown, where the two were apprehended with Walter Flynn, who also lives there. Reach Don Bond at 774-5563 or [email protected]

Originally published November 3, 2005
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