Case of the Month: Bernice Martin. On March 8, 1987, fire fighters found Mrs. Bernice Martin inside the Mayfair Gardens Elderly Housing Complex, Manchester, Connecticut. She had been brutally beaten and passed away that same night in the hospital.
The fire department found her front door locked but the glass sliding door in the back 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 close to 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. She 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 premortem, i.e., 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. It could have been a household item that has always been overlooked.
The assault had started in the bedroom. Semen and blood were found on the bed. A knife blade was found in the bedding. It later tested negative for blood. What may have been a charred handle of the knife was found in the living room. It also tested negative for blood. However, it was never conclusively established whether the knife blade was part of the murder weapon or not. 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.
The attacker had set several fires. One fire was set on the living room couch, one fire near the refrigerator door handle, and one fire near a kitchen drawer handle. Unfortunately, no fingerprints were found. Police did take a partial print from the handle of the glass sliding door of a neighbouring apartment, where someone had cut the screen door the night before.
You just read about the crime scene looked like. Richard Lapointe was arrested and interrogated for multiple hours without a lawyer or a guardian present. And yes, he needed help. Lapointe is mentally retarded and has Dandy Walker Syndrome. Under pressure to make the interrogation stop so he could go home, he gave several confessions. None match the crime scene.
Here are the confessions Lapointe made. In the court documents, you will find the narrative explanations but for immediate overview, I made the following. An explanation of the text in cursive and bold versus normal print:
|Cursive||the original text, literally taken from court documents and evidence|
|Bold||inconsistencies with timelines, crime scene, autopsy, etc|
Confession I (signed)
On March 8, 1987, I was responsible for Bernice Martin’s death and it was an accident. My mind went blank.
Confession II (signed)
I, Richard A. Lapointe, do hereby give the following statement to Detective Paul R. Lombardo of my own free will, free of any threats or promises; that on March 8, 1987, I went to visit Bernice Martin with my wife and son. We left the apartment in the late afternoon and went home. I left my home sometime after that to take the dog for a walk. I was at Bernice’s apartment with the dog. (Note that police did not find his dog there).
We were both there together and the time was right. I probably made a pass at her and she said no. So I hit her and I strangled her. (See notes below). If the evidence shows I was there, and that I killed her, then I killed her, but I don’t remember being there. I made a pass at Bernice because she was a nice person and I thought that I could get somewhere with her. She was like a grandmother to me that I never had.
Confession III (signed)
After being home awhile I left to walk the dog. I then walked back up to Bernice’s apartment (Remember that the police found Lapointe at King’s without a dog. They did not find a dog inside Mrs. Martin’s apartment or anywhere else) and she invited me in. We each had a cup of coffee, I think Bernice had tea and I sat on the couch. I remember having my matches and my smoking pipe in my jacket pocket.
After my coffee I went into the bathroom. When I came out Bernice was in the bedroom combing her hair. She was wearing a pink house coat type of outer wear with no bra. (Police did not find a pink housecoat at the crime scene). I could see her breasts when she bent over. (Mrs. Martin was 88, known for her modesty, and was always properly dressed). I grabbed her with my hand around her waist area. When I did that she pushed me. I threw her on the bed and took off her underwear because I wanted to have intercourse with her (Mrs. Martin was wearing a blouse that was cut open!). I got my penis inside her for a few strokes and then pulled out and masturbated (Mrs. Martin was raped with a blunt object). I did cum on the bed spread when I was finished. I had already thrown her underwear on the right side of the bed (So after two years, he remembers this detail, or maybe he was coached or shown a crime scene photo?).
After the sex she said she was going to tell my wife Karen. I then went to the kitchen and got a steak knife with a hard plastic brown handle and stabbed Bernice in the stomach while she was laying on the couch. (There was no forensic evidence she was stabbed while on the couch. She was stabbed on the bed). The rest of the incident I do not recall although I admit to having strangled her. (He left out the three fires he supposedly set. Lapointe later explained that he strangled Mrs. Martin with his bare hands. The coroner’s report however, stated that Mrs. Martin suffered a compression strangulation caused by pressure with a blunt object to the right side of her neck. There were no contusions on the opposite sides of the neck to support manual strangulation. The police never checked the apartment for blunt objects that could have been used to either rape and/or strangle Mrs. Martin.)
Confession IV (Not signed, text was found in Det. Lombardo’s notebook)
I probably made a pass at her and she said no. So I probably hit her. And I strangled her. If all the evidence shows I was there then it was me that did it. We were both there and the time was right. I went home to eat and Aunt Nat called then I went back to the house.
Does any of this match? No, it doesn’t. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of everything that is wrong with this case. My posts about this case are here. We do not solve the murder of Mrs. Bernice Martin by keeping Lapointe incarcerated while nobody reviews all the leads and all the pieces of evidence especially those related to forensic arson detection. This is not just an injustice to Lapointe but to Mrs. Bernice Martin as well. Her case remains unsolved.