This aired on Dateline NBC on Friday, July 17, 2009. The full show will not be available online;
Boston. A cold wet morning in March, 2006. The Big Dig was almost done. 20 years, it had taken to make the web of tunnels under Boston's harbor. Biggest highway-tunnel project ever. And all that drilling, pounding, pouring cement birthed an engineering marvel and a mecca for corruption and incompetence. It was the backdrop for bad news...like the time a motorist was crushed by faulty ceiling tiles. And for a murder mystery novel.
And now, on this cold and damp March morning, it seemed, perhaps, it had spawned a real murder.
Ten miles from the tunnel, police cars gathered in the soggy parking lot of a Big Dig supplier, Allstate Concrete....owned by a family named Zammitti.
In the dull overcast the rain was gathering force, a forensic nightmare.
And almost right away a theory began to float in the heavy air, half spoken: looks professional, looks like the mob.
Reporter: The Zammitti's company was a big dig contractor.
There were two victims; one an employee who may have gotten in the way of the hit, the other the apparent target, a married father of three named Michael Zammitti, Jr....
Witness: It's shocking. Good kid, good family, good business person.
Allstate Concrete was a father and son outfit: Michael Zammitti, Senior and his son, Michael, Jr.
Dave Dalton: His father just said, “Okay here are the keys to the business,” and pretty much let him run with it.
Mike's best friend and best man at his wedding, Dave Dalton.
Keith Morrison, Dateline NBC: And these are guys who work hard.
Dave Dalton: They worked extremely hard.
Mike Jr. never went to college...but he learned what he had to. He and his dad pumped concrete day and night at the big dig, witnessed the accidents, the constant delay, the rising costs.
Still, surrounded by the rough and tumble of sand hog construction, Mike Jr. was gentle, non-confrontational.
Mike Sr. was the tough one, at least with everyone but his son. They were inseparable.
Dave Dalton: They got along great. They–they were soul mates. Everything they did they did together. Video: Fitzpatrick discusses lover’s child custody
When Mike Jr. was younger, and school let out, the rest of the boys headed for the playground or to chase girls, but not him. He went down to the concrete pumping company.
Keith Morrison: How old was Mike when he got involved in his dad's business?
Dave Dalton: When he was old enough to hold a wrench himself.
Dave Dalton: Big trucks. Big toys.
He learned to drive the big rigs well before he was eligible for his learner's permit.
Dave's wife, Dee Dalton says being around Mike made for some good times.
Dee Dalton: He enjoyed life, he enjoyed having fun.
And while Mike worked hard too, and seemed to be all business, there came a day when he encountered the one thing that never seemed to distract him from his work.
It was a truck driver he met at a job at the airport.
Underneath the yellow hardhat was long brown hair and a tall, young woman.
Her name was Michele Begin. She drove trucks and rode a motorcycle but had a soft face and a willing smile.
Dave Dalton: He was kind of giddy about her.
Keith Morrison: So he went sort of head over heels?
Dave Dalton: Yeah I guess you could say that yeah.
She thought he was the most beautiful man she'd ever met, so she married him, was enveloped in the big Italian family's dreams, and work ethic, and its play.
Mike's sister, also named Michele, welcomed her as the sister she never had. But Mike's new wife quickly learned that her husband had to work long hours to keep the family business going.
For Mike junior and his father ‘Big Mike,’ their only respite from the long hours was fixing up antique fire engines and driving them in local holiday parades in the Boston area and New Hampshire.
The Zammittis kept a vacation home on Lake Ossipee in the small town of Freedom. Video: Michele describes ‘anniversary’ gift
Mike Jr. and Michele had three children, life was good.
Dave Dalton: He–he was just a good person. And he loved his family. He got out of work, he came home. Always.
But now it was that March morning: Monday the 13th.
The two Mikes were due at the shop at 8:00. Along with their handyman, Chester Roberts.
Mike Sr. was late, held up by a telemarketing call.
He arrived in the parking lot minutes after 8 a.m. His son's truck was already there.
He walked into the garage. And there was the body of Chester Roberts.
So overwhelmed with shock, he didn't recognize Roberts. He dialed 911.
Michael Zammitti Sr.’s911 Call: Yeah, at 17 New Salem Street. I just walked in my garage. I don't know if someone is dead on the floor or not.
Operator: Okay, they're not breathing at all?
Michael Zammitti Sr.: I don't know. Hurry up. Bye. You there?
Operator: Yes, I'm having someone right over there, right away.
Michael Zammitti Sr.: Allstate Concrete. Jesus.
Operator: Allstate Concrete.
But where was his son? He climbed the stairs to the second floor office. When he opened the door, the air was sucked out of him.
Massachusetts State Trooper Kevin Baker: Michael Zammitti Jr. was in a chair seated, and he had been shot in the face.
Shot twice with a 16-guage shotgun.
The shooter, or shooters, must have encountered Chester Roberts as they were leaving. Police found his body at the bottom of a staircase, shot in the back, as if he'd turned to run away.
Officer Baker: Unfortunately, our only eye witness was Chester Roberts and he was brutally killed simply because he was an eye witness. Video: Michele on her imagined life with her lover
Mike Sr. waited for the police, and through his shock told them what he could.
Officer Baker: Not only was this his only son but this was his life-long business partner. They spent almost all of their time together.
Mike Sr. told the officers, "they" killed his son. But who were they?
The cops set up yellow tape to keep the curious away. But they could not hold off the avalanche of theories.
Wakefield Police Chief Richard Smith: There were a million stories, a million rumors, a million innuendos that were out there.
Had the Zammittis made enemies? Was it what it looked like, a mob hit?
Mike Sr. called his wife Pat. Pat called Michele. Waves of shock and grief.
When Mike Sr. got home, they called an ambulance. The pain in his chest felt like a heart attack.
Who had done this? And why?
Ten miles north of Boston proper is a small town called Wakefield, Mass. Lovely homes on a lake - Quannapowitt - a gazebo on the village green.
On the other side of the railroad tracks is the industrial row and New Salem Street.
On March 13, 2006, among the commercial trucks barreling down the street were crime scene units.
Keith Morrison: How many murders a year do you get in Wakefield?
Chief Smith: We have been very fortunate and we–for the last six years, we had not had any murders.
And now there were two.
Some unknown killer or killers had barged into the offices of AllState Concrete Company and blasted Mike Zammitti Jr. and his employee Chester Roberts with a 16-guage shotgun.
Michael Zammitti Sr.’s 911 Call: Yeah I just walked in my garage, I don't know if someone's dead on the floor or not.
In Massachusetts, homicides are generally investigated by a team of state troopers assigned to the county D.A.'s office.
In this case, the Middlesex County D.A., and trooper Kevin Baker.
Officer Baker: This case, from the beginning, was a–a legitimate, best way to describe it, it was a whodunit.
All the more so as the freezing rain began to wash away the evidence…tire tracks and foot prints outside AllState Concrete.
Keith Morrison: You could see it was a long slog ahead of you.
Officer Baker: Yeah, I think that's an appropriate way to put it. Clearly, it wasn't a–a situation where there had been a robbery or–hand–a hand-to-hand struggle.
Keith Morrison: Was it clear who the target was? That it was one or the other of those guys?
Officer Baker: Chester Roberts had been shot in the back and–and clearly Michael Zammitti had been shot in–in the face. It appeared more that the person had targeted him– Video: Fitzpatrick describes Zammittis’ relationship (on this page)
Was it some business score being settled? Something related to their concrete pumping jobs at the big dig?
Keith Morrison: My first inclination, if I had heard about such a thing, would be to think, oh my God, you know, concrete company, double murder, weekday morning, this is a mob hit.
Officer Baker: That–that was something that we had to consider, but we had to follow where the evidence led us, and we couldn't draw any conclusions based on just speculation.
Keith Morrison: Can't get ahead of yourself.
Officer Baker: Correct.
Anyway, if it was business related, the killer, or killers, may have hit the wrong Zammitti.
Mike Jr. was soft-spoken, easy going. His father, Mike Sr., the hard driving owner of the company.
Had some enemy come after the father, and hit the son?
Keith Morrison: There were some people around who thought, well, you know, the kind of business they're in, they're in the concrete business. That's, you know–
Dave Dalton: Well–
Keith Morrison: Rough, tough guys in that business.
Dave Dalton: Of course. Concrete, Italian. Wasn't fair but–that's the stereotype.
And if not for the telemarketing call at home that delayed him that morning, it might have been he who greeted the shotgun.
Officer Baker: We followed–extensively followed–leads that had to do with the business and any conflicts the business had had and over the past decade we went back.
Keith Morrison: Were there any?
Officer Baker: There were some disputes that the company had had, but in–certainly no disputes that would have arisen to the level that would have resulted in–in a murder.
Perhaps it was someone who once worked for the Zammittis. Detectives pursued that as well.
Officer Baker: And it was only natural to have–employees that might have left over the years under–that were maybe dissatisfied with the reasons they left.
Keith Morrison: Did you talk to these people?
Officer Baker: We did. We followed up on every dispute that we became aware of. And we were able to rule out those having anything to do with the double murders.
With rain pouring down, investigators were doing their wet leather shoe work, talking to people on New Salem Street, pulling surveillance video - AllState didn't have any - at companies up and down the street.
Officer Baker: We talked to many, many people. Neighbors, friends, and–and people that the family identified to us that they thought–should be talked to.
And even though the murders happened at work, investigators - as they do in all homicides - also poked around for leads closer to home. Could a family member be involved?
And then, as they were pursuing those leads, a letter arrived at the home of Mike and Pat Zammitti, and with it…terror and turmoil.
Maybe there was more to come.
If there was a connection between the concrete pumping business and the double murders of Mike Zammitti Jr. and Chester Roberts, police weren't finding it.
Officer Baker: We simply couldn't find any angle, any lead, anything that would lead us to believe that the Zammittis had a–a problem with someone that would–would've committed such a horrific crime.
Then, two weeks after the murder, a letter arrived at the Zammitti house that sent police back to square one.
Officer Baker: The Zammitti family received a threatening note to their house. And it was, what I can only best describe as, like, an old fashioned ransom letter. It was letters cut out of a newspaper to spell words.
Keith Morrison: Nobody does that anymore.
Officer Baker: It seemed like a very-
Officer Baker: Unusual–set of circumstances. And that letter said, "Close business now or more family will die." And, obviously, the Zammittis were incredibly distraught over receiving this letter.
Even though investigators from the Massachusetts State Police had started to rule out a business related motive, they weren't sure what to make of this.
Keith Morrison: Did you ever think when the Zammittis called up and said, "We got this letter," and they're distraught about it, that this was some sort of a mob operation or somebody who was still out there threatening them?
Officer Baker: Well, it–it certainly was something that we didn't rule out. We weren't gonna rule out any possibility.
Forensic experts at their lab went over the letter looking for fingerprints and DNA. The cut out letters ruled out matching handwriting samples, of course.
After the note, police went back and re-evaluated all the leads they had exhausted before.
And as with all murder investigations, they worked the circle of suspicion closer to home.
Did the Zammitis have any personal enemies? A question, to those who knew them well, which must have seemed ludicrous.
Mike Jr.'s best friend David Dalton.
Dave Dalton: They're just wonderful people. And always welcomed you into their home. And they always made you feel comfortable.
And that's the way they were also at their weekend home up in Freedom, New Hampshire…on idyllic Lake Ossipee. Happy, welcoming, hard working.
On weekends, neighbor David Spears watched in something like awe as Mike Sr. worked his yard.
David Spears: I saw the guy in New Hampshire who worked hard every day, up at seven o'clock Sunday morning with his backhoe doing a project up there. Very nice, generous, giving person.
Mike Jr. and his family bought a house here too on the very same street as Mike's parents. Video: Michele on her imagined life with her lover Knew all the neighbors.
Friendly people here. Like David Spears…and particularly David's best friend, a man who lived here year round and lived right across the street from the Zammitti's, Sean Fitzpatrick.
David Spears: Very personable, you know? Help anyone out, you know? If they had something going on, a project at the house, you know, he'd be more than willing to help. Very friendly guy.
Sean helped out at Mike Sr.'s house. Looked out for the kids at Mike Jr.'s place. Played with them like he was still a kid himself down at Lake Ossippee.
And the kids...loved him back.
Dave Dalton: They called him “Uncle Sean.”
Dee Dalton: You know, on school vacations, or summer vacation, when most guys still have to work, he wasn't working. So he was around a lot. So when they would go up there, you know, he was around to take them out on the boat, or to take them out jet skiing.
Keith Morrison: To–to be the adult with the kids.
Dee Dalton: Yeah.
Sean was a frequent guest at the Zammitti get togethers, and there were lots of them. Bar-B-Q's, lunches, a beer in the kitchen.
David Spears: If they were out cooking lunch and they'd say, "Sean, come on over. Have some lunch." It was very friendly, open. Went back and forth. The door was always open.
Dee Dalton: The first time I–that we met him was at–Mr. Z's 50th birthday. And I remember saying he was very personable. Very likable. He was that easy to talk to. And–
Keith Morrison: Very chatty?
Dee Dalton: Chatty, chatty. Yeah, he was–he was chatty.
So, though detectives were still pursuing leads in the Boston area, they were only too happy to talk to a Freedom resident as helpful as Sean Fitzpatrick...along with the rest of the neighborhood of course.
Officer Baker: And exclusively, the leads that we followed up on all–led to dead ends, except when we went in the direction of Sean Fitzpatrick.
Uncle Sean Fitzpatrick? The helpful, friendly one with the quick laugh and the ready punch line?
What could he possibly know about the murders of Michael Zammitti Jr. and Chester Roberts down in Wakefield, Massachusetts?
No one knew the answer to that one just yet. But Mike Jr.'s mother Pat had one possible reason to ask the question.
After all, hadn't she seen with her own eyes the secret Sean had been hiding?
The one that almost tore the family apart...
Sean Fitzpatrick's life was pretty good. No job to go to every day, and enough pension from Verizon - along with some part time work – to keep him comfortable in his A frame on New Hampshire's Lake Ossipee.
His vanity license plate said it all.
David Spears: 02BME. Oh, to be me–Oh, to live my life kind of a thing.
Most people came to Lake Ossipee on vacation. But Sean Fitzpatrick seemed to be enjoying a permanent vacation.
And the life of a ladies' man.
His best friend David Spears.
David Spears: He would–tell me about, you know, different girls that he had, you know, short-term relationships. Yeah, I think he thought that he was kinda hot stuff.
Hot stuff indeed. He'd organize motorcycle trips with Spears and his kids. Get people out on the lake boating, or jet skiing. During the winter he'd take them out on snow mobiles. The defacto social director. When Mike Zammitti Jr. was busy working on weekends, "Uncle Sean," as the kids called him, took them out on Lake Ossipee.
And so, for investigators, once again...the question:
Keith Morrison: Sean Fitzpatrick? Why would you look at him?
Officer Baker: Well, we had discussed at length with the families–anybody that they could even fathom might have animosity with their family. And Michael Zammitti Jr.'s mother had indicated to us that there was a person–in Freedom, New Hampshire named Sean Fitzpatrick and that on one occasion, she had seen her daughter-in-law in an embrace with Sean that she deemed, in her opinion, to be inappropriate for a married mother to have been in.
Imagine the shock. As far as she knew, her son and Michele were one happy couple. But what Pat saw–this…embrace–could only have meant one thing: an affair.
Keith Morrison: Mrs. Zammitti did not keep this a secret once she saw her daughter-in-law in that embrace.
Officer Baker: That's true. Correct.
Keith Morrison: Did she go to her daughter-in-law and say, "You've got to end this"?
Officer Baker: I think that they discussed it and–and it was very clear that–that–that the family did not approve of this relationship.
It was, to say the least, an eye-opener for the detectives, who, as soon as they could, took the two hour drive up to New Hampshire with a whole new round of questions.
Officer Baker: In a case like this, our initial–um activity is to go and lock everybody in on a statement.
Keith Morrison: Lock everybody in on a statement?
Officer Baker: And–
Keith Morrison: That's an interesting way to put it.
When police asked Michele about her mother-in-law's discovery and the family turmoil that followed…she denied having an affair with Sean.
Then, two days later, when investigators were back at the house...
Officer Baker: She pulled us aside and said, "Look, there's something I need to tell you. I– I've been involved in a relationship with this man, Sean Fitzpatrick, and I'd like to come sit down and explain that more fully. 'Cause I'm concerned that that might have had something to do with what happened here."
And she was extremely forthcoming about–something that she was incredibly ashamed of.
Keith Morrison: And blaming herself, I should think.
Officer Baker: And–and, certainly, I think, there was some of that. And from that point forward, she wanted to be–explain everything that she knew to us and be cooperative.
They'd just been friends at first, Michele told police, and then...all that time together down at the lake they got to be better friends. And then things heated up from hugs to kisses to...to something more than that.
There was sex involved, though Michele said it never got to the point of sleeping together.
But then her mother-in-law discovered them in that embrace and Michele made the partial confession to her husband–she never did tell him the most intimate details.
But she did promise she would break it off with Sean.
Troopers questioned David spears, too, and he confirmed his best friend, Sean's affair with a married woman.
David Spears: In what he had told me and watching them interact, I do believe from–from my perspective that they had fallen in love.
I tried to council Sean to say–you know, the old cliché, you know, if you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it's yours.
But was it over?
Could Michele have been in deeper than she revealed? Could she even have been a suspect in the death of her husband?
She did, it turned out, stop seeing Sean, but detectives found records that showed the two kept talking on the phone…lots of calls, hours of talk…for months.
Keith Morrison: So–why'd she keep calling him?
Officer Baker: Simply, she was afraid that Sean, if he disclosed the relationship to Michael, it would devastate her marriage. And she felt that, they could end the–their romantic part of–of the relationship, but still be friends. And on top of that, Sean had told her, "I'm gonna move out if you're not gonna be with me. I'm gonna move outside of the Freedom area." So, she felt, I think–in a lot of ways, she was just marking time until he packed up and moved.
Michele's story was credible, the detective decided, those calls of hers were clearly about saving her marriage…not about some conspiracy. He quickly ruled her out as a suspect…
Still, could Sean have had something to do with the murder?
The affair, sure, said his friend David Spears, he could see that. But violence, from Sean? Never. He just wasn't the type.
Besides, Spears felt, he was finally getting Sean to see the folly of getting involved with a married woman.
David Spears: So, I just thought it was–you know could–I could ease him out, you know? Be there and be his counselor so to speak and help him back off and at times I thought that I was makin' progress with him.
But what if Spears was wrong...what if Sean had a different idea of what the relationship could be?
And so drove to Boston that rainy March morning to rid himself of his romantic rival.
A bit of a stretch? Maybe.
Sean told detectives he had an alibi and a witness who could prove he was in fact in New Hampshire that morning, and nowhere near the shooting in far off Wakefield.
Besides, remember that threatening letter...the one that intimated more harm might come to the Zammitti family?
Surely a force darker than love was at work…if only they could find it.
It was 8:30 at night when police came knocking at Sean Fitzpatrick's door in Freedom, New Hampshire.
And Sean? Told them he'd been expecting them.
Did he suspect police knew…about the embrace, all those phone calls to Michele in the months before the murder...
Of course he must have assumed the police had heard local gossip…and were doing some checking.
Sean's best friend, David Spears.
David Spears: He started to tell me that–you know, he'd be a natural suspect because of the, you know, endless phone calls that they had on their cell phone bills. I said, "Yeah, you're right. You'd be a natural suspect."
Police didn't waste too much time before they asked Sean the 64-thousand dollar question: had he had an affair with Michele Zammitti?
Officer Baker: He had denied that there was a relationship of any–you know, any sort beyond a friendship with Michele Zammitti. And we had from several people information, one from his best friend David Spears, and also from Michele Zammitti herself, that no, in fact, they were involved in an extramarital affair.
Keith Morrison: Which he denied.
Officer Baker: Which he had denied to us.
Keith Morrison: But that's probably understandable.
Officer Baker: Absolutely. And it was understandable that perhaps this was somethin' he didn't want to share or come out.
And remember, Fitzpatrick had no violence in his past, no record.
He was just one of the many people Massachusetts State Troopers needed to talk to after the murder.
And he had an alibi.
Officer Baker: He had said that he had been home all morning–that he had–been outside of his house at a certain time of the morning. And that his neighbor, Gert Dusharm, had walked by and seen him at that time. And the time of the morning that he had given us he would not have be able to drive from Wakefield, Massachusetts to his home in Freedom, New Hampshire, if he had, in fact, been seen at that time.
Keith Morrison: So, what? Around 9:00 in the morning or something?
Officer Baker: Correct. He had said that–that day that he had–been seen, I believe it was at 9:00 a.m., he said.
The earliest the murders could have occurred was 8:00 a.m., and it's at least a two hour drive from Boston up here to New Hampshire, so if Sean's alibi was correct, if he was in fact seen in his driveway by a neighbor, around 9 o'clock on the morning, then he was in the clear.
Sean's neighbor, Gert Ducharme, had a daily routine...every morning - not too early - she donned her sneakers and went for a walk through the neighborhood.
Officer Baker: She said, "I saw him way after that, much later. I saw him–around 10:00 am or between 10:00 and 10:30," I think is what she said.
Keith Morrison: Really?
Officer Baker: Yes.
Keith Morrison: Was there anything odd about it?
Officer Baker: Well, she had been his neighbor for many years. and she said it–it's the first time she had ever seen him just standing outside of his house in March–for no apparent reason, just standing there with what she thought was a mug or a cup of coffee.
Was he trying to establish an alibi? But on the day of the murder, Sean told his best friend David Spears, that in addition to his neighbor Gert seeing him, he had received a morning call on his cell phone.
So not one but two alibis.
David Spears: I had said, "Geez, that–that's great, you'll be able to, you know, through cell phone triangulation, be able to show that you were up in the lakes region at, say, 7:30 or 8:30 or whatever it was, and there's no way that you could have been in those two places."
When police checked Sean's cell phone records, it appeared his phone had been turned off the entire morning up until about 9:45 a.m.
Keith Morrison: And I'm assuming that the light bulb goes on in somebody's head on the investigation, and say, "Oh, he left his phone at home so that he wouldn't be–"
Officer Baker: That's a conclusion that we came to based on his knowledge. He–he spoke to–one of his friends–about his knowledge that cell phones could be tracked. And we knew that he was a former employee of Verizon.
Of course, it's natural the police would want to check out the stories their persons of interest have told them...
And, in Sean's case...?
Officer Baker: As we looked into–other things that he had explained or other things that we knew about him at that point, we found further inconsistencies.
What happens then is that detectives go back to their offices, go over the statements, regroup, and then return for another interview.
Just a way for Sean to explain these…inconsistencies.
But Sean...shut them down.
Officer Baker: We made further attempts to–discuss that with Sean Fitzpatrick. And he was unwilling to talk further to us about it.
Keith Morrison: But you needed to talk to him, or needed to find some things out, anyway.
Officer Baker: So, we had to dig deeper on our own.
Not much deeper, mind. Or at least, not much farther.
It was a major clue, and it was right next door.
But... this clue seemed to point in the direction of another possible suspect.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire can be both breath taking and brutal.
Weather here? Here's what the great American poet Longfellow wrote "Cold, cold is the north wind and rude is the blast that sweeps like a hurricane loudly and fast…"
Now police were wondering if Sean Fitzpatrick was the rude blast on a cold wind who left two people dead in Boston…
He, it seemed, may have had a motive: an affair with the wife of one of the victims, Mike Zammitti Jr...
Chief Smith: The one road that didn't come to a dead end was the road that led down to Sean Fitzpatrick.
Wakefield police chief Rick Smith says investigators were uncovering more and more inconsistencies in his story.
Chief Smith: When you went to Sean Fitzpatrick, there seemed to open up another door and another door.
But on Fitzpatrick's New Hampshire street, somebody was literally opening doors–breaking into homes actually. It started March 12th, the day before the murders, though the break-ins were not discovered until two weeks later.
Officer Baker: In one neighbor's memory, there had never been a housebreak in the last 15 years that he could recall. And suddenly, there was three.
...And one of the houses belonged to Mike Zammitti Sr...
Keith Morrison: What was taken during these house break-ins?
Officer Baker: Well–that was also obviously of interest to us, 'cause a shotgun, as well as several other guns, was missing from the victim's home. And the caliber of that shotgun matched the caliber of the firearm that we knew to be used in this homicide.
And then, as investigators were standing outside Sean Fitzpatrick's house, one of them noticed something familiar.
It was next door, in the driveway of Sean's neighbor, Fred Martin. Hadn't they seen that vehicle somewhere before?
Officer Baker: A truck that was very consistent with a video that we had of Allstate concrete in Wakefield.
A surveillance video showed a dark pickup truck driving by all state concrete just before the murders.
A short time later on the same camera, Michael Zammitti Jr.'s white pickup truck is seen on New Salem Street as he drove to work that day.
Then on another camera, on a building far away from all state concrete, Chester Roberts is seen walking to work. It is just before 8 a.m….an important point in the timeline.
Officer Baker: We saw our victim's vehicle driving in. And then we saw what appeared to us to be an unknown motor vehicle that we all thought was–was consistent with perhaps a–ford pickup truck.
Keith Morrison: At the time you're watching this, poring over it and–that must be terribly frustrating. You think here, we got a picture but we can't tell.
Officer Baker: Had the video just been clearer, we–we felt that we'd have–it could be a tremendous piece of evidence. But at that point, it wasn't useful by itself to us without more information.
Was there now a new suspect, Fred Martin, the owner of that truck? Could he have been the driver on the surveillance tape?
Keith Morrison: Maybe it was the next-door neighbor you needed to talk to–
Officer Baker: Well, the next-door neighbor, we–we got in communication with him.
But Fred Martin was a man in his 70's. His house had also been broken into. And he too had an alibi.
Officer Baker: He was very cooperative with us. He explained that he had been in Florida during all the time frame in question. And that he leaves his pickup truck in New Hampshire, um–and– and it's– in the driveway secured–there.
Or was it secured?
Nothing much of value was taken from Fred's house during the break-in…But…could something have been borrowed? Like the keys to the pickup?
Keith Morrison: That truck it just seems so unlikely (laughs) that–you would– stumble upon such a thing in somebody's driveway and–and a moment of recognition.
Officer Baker: When we saw it, we weren't sure what to make of it.
The rear window on the cab of Martin's truck was broken, plastic tape covering the hole. Police went back and studied the surveillance video again.
Officer Baker: Also on that truck was what appeared to be a broken rear window.
Keith Morrison: But it's a fuzzy video, a picture that might be that truck–a guy who says he was at home all morning, and his neighbor lady says she saw him at some point or another. I mean, that's not a whole lot to go on.
Officer Baker: Yes. At that point, we still–were–going through–a number of leads. And this was–an important lead. But it wasn't the only lead we were still working on.
Detectives asked if they could tow the pickup in for a crime scene analysis. Fred Martin said O.K.
Officer Baker: And they also took swabbings of the vehicle and the steering wheel and the–other items.
Keith Morrison: Swabbings for DNA?
Officer Baker: Swabbings that could be used for DNA tests.
Then Fred Martin, an ex-Marine, did some sleuthing on his own.
Officer Baker: Mr. Martin later contacted me and said that, "You know, after you took my truck, it made me think. I have an EZ Pass on my truck. And– I went online just to see if my EZ Pass had been used that day. And lo and behold my truck went through the Dover tolls that morning at–shortly after 8:30 a.m. going northbound."
The Dover tolls–one of three toll booths on the highway between Boston and New Hampshire.
Keith Morrison: Just one toll, though?
Officer Baker: That's correct.
Keith Morrison: He'd have to go through several tolls, wouldn't he?
Officer Baker: Well, that was our–our belief too. And we–we were confused–by that point.
Confused, but not for long once trooper Baker spoke with state transportation officials.
Officer Baker: That vehicle, or Mr. Martin’s transponder, had driven through all six tolls. And on all six occasions, had paid cash. And what had occurred is on one of those transactions, the toll collector had inadvertently accepted both the transponder transaction and also collected cash from the operator of the vehicle.
Keith Morrison: It was a mistake?
Officer Baker: it was a–quite simply a mistake on the toll collector's behalf. He simply screwed up.
Keith Morrison: Somebody was tryin' to cover up where he was.
Officer Baker: Yes. Why else would you have a transponder and pay cash if you unless you don't want anybody to know that that transponder is traveling through the toll plaza?
Keith Morrison: But it would be helpful to know for sure that it was the truck that went through the toll and not just the transponder in some other vehicle.
Officer Baker: When you see the toll transactions that correspond to the times of all six transactions, corresponding exactly with–the times that that truck is seen on video and that the truck that's seen on video has the same unique characteristic, a what appears to be a broken rear window, as Mr. Martin's truck, I think it's a reasonable conclusion that a jury could draw.
Someone had driven Fred Martin's truck to Boston and back the morning of the murder.
Did Sean Fitzpatrick steal the keys and take the truck to hide his own route to murder?
Well, that would be a little harder to prove. Where were the fingerprints, the DNA, something connecting Sean to the truck?
And what about that baffling letter that threatened the Zammittis with yet another murder unless they closed their business...hardly the stuff of a love triangle…who sent that?
As usual, in this case, nothing would be quite as it seemed.
Up at the Mountview development on glimmering Lake Ossipee, David Spears was worried about his friend Sean Fitzpatrick.
Sean had become agitated, almost paranoid, as the investigation of Mike Zammitti's murder focused in on Freedom, New Hampshire.
Sean, said his friend, had begun to feel like a target.
David Spears: As we were talking, he said, "My phone must be bugged, I'm–I'm–I gotta hang up." And he hung up the phone on me. That–that bothered me.
Sean's phone wasn't tapped...at least not then.
Weeks later, however, Massachusetts state trooper Kevin Baker sat in his unmarked car and listened in on a phone conversation between Sean and Michele Zammitti, the victim's wife.
Sean Fitzpatrick: How I'm feeling?
Michele Zammitti: Yeah.
Sean Fitzpatrick: Sick. Sick for Michael, sick for you, sick for everybody that's been affected by this.
What Sean didn't know is that Michele was sitting in the police car next to trooper Baker. He also didn't know that she had already admitted to the affair, while he continued to lie to police.
By now she'd begun to think Sean really did kill her husband. So she agreed to record a phone conversation.
Sean Fitzpatrick: The nonsense of it, you know. If there's a god, why?
They talked for two hours.
Trooper Baker asked Michele to steer the conversation. Would Sean suggest they lie about their affair?
Michele Zammitti: You know, the only thing that does make sense, probably at this point, is the love triangle. And that scares the sh*t out of me.
Sean: You know, when they come back to talk to me I am just gonna tell them, you know, what, I guess, we said all along. Yep, we're good friends. Yep, we talk a lot. And out of respect for the family I don't really think that it's–you know anything more that we really wanna talk about.
Michele: And what about the hug?
Sean: I guess if they ask me, you know, if–if we were having an affair, I think I'll say it's another no. My definition of affair was having sex. So, you know. So I–you know, I think that's just what I say to the police, you know, people like to talk.
Sean tells Michele not to worry, that his alibi is tight; his neighbor Gert saw him that morning outside his house.
Michele: If you have a solid, concrete thing, then–then I–it–it would relieve me of feeling–
Sean: Well–I do have a solid, concrete thing. Gert saw me. Like I said, that was about 9:15 or 9:30. So I–I was seen. I was here. I spoke with somebody.
At one point, Sean offers Michele his theory of the crime. The same one he gave the police.
Sean: It sounds to me like it was very professional. And I said it to them. I said, "I– I– I don't know. You know, is the mafia involved?" And they would go, "Well, why would you think organized crime is involved?" And I said, "I don't know." I said, "I don't know. Is it because they're Italian? They worked on the big dig."
Then ...he seems for a moment to be heading toward some sort of confession....but stops short.
Sean: I feel dirty and unclean. And– I– I– I do. I–I feel guilty. I feel guilty, you know. I feel guilty because I'm–you know, I would've like to have seen Michael be weekend dad. I wanted to be with his wife. So I feel guilty about that.
Michele: But not until he died or got killed.
Sean: No, I did not want that.
And then a remark that seemed at once self-serving…and thoroughly chilling.
Sean: To be perfectly honest with you, you know, I had–you know, I always thought of–you know, "Well, geez–you know, if Michael had an accident." I mean, and that–that kills me to think about that. The only time I would have a thought like that, you know– I'd be like, "Jesus, don't even think like that," you know. And now, all of a sudden, something like this has happened. So, yeah, I feel guilty, and it's like, you know, be careful what you wish for.
Interesting, but still not proof of murder.
Police needed more, including Sean's fingerprints…but, remember by now, he wasn't cooperating.
And then a stroke of luck.
New Hampshire police learned that Sean, who had that truck with the license plate that read "0-2-BE-ME," was tooling around with an expired driver's license. So troopers stopped him in his truck, arrested him, and took him to headquarters.
He made bail right away of course…but first–they got his fingerprints. And, more important, his palm print.
Remember that threatening letter to the Zammittis, the one that said "notice, close now or lose more family"...
Officer Baker: What they found was a very clear palm print on the inside flap of that letter. Everybody involved certainly wanted to– to find out whose palm print that was.
And now they had Sean's palm print to compare. And?
Officer Baker: We found that his palm print was a perfect match to the palm print on the inside of that envelope.
There could be only one conclusion: it was Sean Fitzpatrick who sent this threat letter to the Zammitti family.
The Prosecutor, Dan Bennett, said it was obvious what Sean wanted that letter to accomplish.
Attorney Dan Bennett: The only person that's gonna send a letter like that is someone who's trying to mislead the police. And if you're not the murderer, why do you want to do that?
Except...though it was in bad taste, certainly, and cruel, that letter by itself didn't prove murder.
But it did give investigators an idea: There was a second letter. This one they already knew was from Sean: a sympathy card he'd sent to Michele.
He must have licked the envelope.
And they'd been desperate for Sean's DNA.
Remember Fred Martin–Sean Fitzpatrick's neighbor? His pickup truck seemed to match one seen on surveillance video outside AllState Concrete minutes before and then after the murder.
Fred's truck had been driven through toll booths down to Boston...and back again.
And there was DNA on the steering wheel and the car keys...that didn't belong to Fred.
So, was it Sean's?
They compared the DNA on the envelope with the DNA in Fred's truck. And?
Attorney Bennett: It was Sean Fitzpatrick's DNA.
But the DNA sample was miniscule, possibly even too small to create a profile strong enough to stand up in court.
Besides, remember, the murder weapon was never found…nor any eyewitnesses, nor DNA, nor fingerprints at the murder scene, nor even tire tracks in the parking lot.
So, although a grand jury returned an indictment–two counts of first degree murder - and Sean Fitzpatrick was jailed to await trial, the case against him was little more than a circumstantial patchwork.
Back in Freedom, however, opinion was strong. That winter somebody torched Sean's A-frame house.
Clearly arson, said the police, but no one was ever charged…
And two years later, when the law had finally drifted in its own good time to trial, Sean's attorney rose in a Boston courtroom to defend him.
Attorney Gioia: Sean Fitzpatrick is not the cold blooded killer of these two men.
Oh yes he was, said the state, ready now with its web of circumstantial evidence in which to entrap him.
Ready for a 'normal' murder trial, so far as there is such a thing.
But the trial of Sean Fitzpatrick, as you will see–just as the victims grieving family did, would be nothing remotely like normal.
No matter how well laid the plan.
Court Clerk: Alright jury entering, all rise. Court is now in session.
Sean Fitzpatrick was the essence of propriety when he appeared in court to face two counts of first degree murder.
Not at all like man with a twisted vision conjured up by prosecutor Dan Bennett…a man who killed for love and then killed again to eliminate a witness…
Attorney Bennett: Michele Zammitti, says, "I'm not gonna leave Michael. I'm gonna be with Michael unless something happens to him." Three weeks later Michael Zammitti gets hit with a 16-gage shotgun blast in his face, ripping his head apart.
But prosecutor Bennett and his co-counsel, Denise Casper, had a problem... theirs was a complex, circumstantial case.
Attorney Bennett: So, there's not gonna be an eyewitness. It's more about, do the circumstances fit, so that no one else could have committed this crime?
The families of Michael Zammitti Jr. and Chester Roberts packed one side of the courtroom as the victim’s father, Mike Sr. took the witness stand.
And if looks could kill, there would have been another homicide in the courtroom when he was asked to identify the defendant.
Attorney Bennett: And you see him in the courtroom, sir?
Michael Zammitti Sr.: Yes, I do.
Attorney Bennett: And you– could you identify him by an article of clothing and where he's seated in the courtroom at this time, sir?
Michael Zammitti Sr.: He's sitting right over there in the middle.
Zammitti is a strong man in a tough business. But the damage he suffered was apparent as he sat here in court and relived the horror of that morning…
Michael Zammitti Sr.: I went upstairs, and I found my son shot in the head.
Mr. Bennett: Now, sir–
Michael Zammitti Sr.: And—
Mr. Bennett: When you went downstairs and–
Michael Zammitti Sr.: I’ll finish. Let me finish, okay? And I–and I went up to my son, and I hugged him, and I kissed him on the face. And I told him I loved him. And then I– I called my wife and told her.
Zammitti's wife Pat.
Who, when she testified, told how for a couple of years she'd been growing worried about the amount of time her daughter in law Michele was spending with Sean.
Mrs. Casper: and how often were–did you observe them together?
Patricia Zammitti: Too often. Well every time she came up with the children, she was there with him more than she was with her family.
But it wasn't until she saw them in that too-intimate embrace, she said, that she decided to blow the whistle.
Patricia Zammitti: I was very, very upset. I was actually speechless. I didn't know what to say. They were both shocked to see me. And I turned around and I walked out.
Years later, Pat Zammitti would still embrace her daughter in law sitting next to her during trial, a message to the jury that for her there was forgiveness.
Keith Morrison: Pretty extraordinary, actually.
Attorney Bennett: It really was.
Keith Morrison: For a jury to look out there and see–this woman, who's infidelity had created this horrible situation. And the family has embraced her.
Attorney Bennett: The only thing I disagree with that is, yes, her infidelity may have been the trigger. But it's Sean Fitzpatrick and his decisions that turned it from a mistake by Michele Zammitti into a double homicide.
The lynchpin in the prosecutor's case was getting jurors to believe that Sean Fitzpatrick took Fred Martin's pickup truck and drove it from New Hampshire to Boston to commit the murders.
Prosecutors say he had to do it...his own red pickup with the vanity plate would never do.
Attorney Bennett: That was one of the reasons why he had to take another vehicle. If he had ever driven down that street with "O-to-be-me" on the front of his license plate, in that big red truck, it would have been so clear.
A truck like Fred Martin's black pickup was seen on surveillance videos outside AllState Concrete. And Fitzpatrick's DNA was found on the steering wheel. No other reason for it to be there, according to Martin.
Attorney Bennett: Sean Fitzpatrick. Has he ever driven your truck?
Fred Martin Jr.: No, he hasn't.
Attorney Bennett: Has he ever been in your truck?
Fred Martin, Jr.: No, he hasn't.
And as for Sean's alibi…well, this was she.
Sean claimed that Gert Ducharme saw him in front of his house march 13th between 9 and 9:30am.
Couldn't have killed Mike Jr. at 8 a.m. and driven back before, say, 10.
She is a woman of habits, she told the jury. She always checked her watch before going for her walk.
Prosecuting attorney Michael Fabbri: What time was it?
Gertrude Ducharme: It was either 10:00 a.m. or five past at the most.
So much for that alibi.
Attorney Fabbri: Was it unusual to see Mr. Fitzpatrick when you took your morning walk?
Gertrude Ducharme: Just standing there, leaning on his truck? Yes.
Not if he was trying to create an alibi, prosecutors say.
Bailliff: ...Michele Zammitti.
And now...every eye in the courtroom was on the prosecution's star witness, the woman at the centre of it all: Michele Zammitti...
...who told the jury how she drifted away from her husband and towards Sean Fitzpatrick.
Michele Zammitti: Well after I got married, everything changed. I didn't think Michael respected me as much as he used to. And–I didn't feel loved.
Here in court, her guilt and shame were palpable.
Attorney Fabbri: As a result of your relationship with Michael and the deterioration that was going on, did you start to become attracted to someone?
Michele Zammitti: Yes.
AttorneyFabbri: And who was that?
Michele Zammitti: Sean.
Sean, she testified, played with her kids...and spent hours on the phone with her.
And during one of those many calls, said Michele, Sean crossed the line dividing friends and lovers.
Michele Zammitti: Saying to me, "If I'm out of line and you never want me to say this again, then let me know. But I've fallen in love with you."
Attorney Fabbri: Did you tell him he was out of line?
Michele Zammitti: No.
Attorney Fabbri: Did Sean ever talk to you about leaving Michael?
Michele Zammitti: All the time.
He wrote her poetry and self published a volume dedicated to her.
Attorney Fabbri: And it says by SD, do you know who SD is?
Michele Zammitti: It was a joke between him and I. It was a nickname. Seany Dangerous, something like that.
AttorneyFabbri: Now, it says first edition January 17th, 2005. Below are a group of initials. Do you know what those initials stand for?
Michele Zammitti: The day I said, "I love you."
She testified in excruciating detail.
She admitted that even after she was caught in that embrace, she hid from her husband the intimate details, the full extent of her betrayal.
She gave him instead a half-confession...along with a warning: that their marriage was slipping away.
Michele Zammitti: I told mike that I didn't love him anymore the way that two people should love one another. And he asked "Is Sean the new guy or what?" And I said, "You're letting him be."
But Michele told jurors Michael Zammitti Jr. was not about to give up on his marriage.
Michele Zammitti: He seemed sincere and serious that he would go to counseling and try to work on the problems that we had.
That's when she decided to give her marriage another chance, she said. She tried also to put Sean on a back burner.
Michele Zammitti: I tried to end it without hurting his feelings, at least, until Michael and I could know whether or not we were gonna work things out.
But after Michael's mother walked in on that infamous hug, the family doubted Michele had ended her relationship with Sean. And certainly Sean wasn't prepared to accept defeat.
So then, said Michele, she told Sean about the new facts of their lives...
And his response resonated still, here in court, especially given how things turned out.
Michele Zammitti: I told him that I wasn't gonna leave my husband. The only way that he and I would have the opportunity to be a–ever to be together in our future was if something had had happened to Michael.
Attorney Fabbri: How did Mr. Fitzpatrick react?
Michele Zammitti: He pounded his fist down on the table and– and I said to him, "I sense a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here," which I had never seen from Sean before.
It was after that, she saw them together, alone Sean and Mike, out on lake Ossipee. The lake was still frozen over that March morning. She couldn't tell what they were saying? Were they arguing? Were there threats involved?
Then two days after that face to face on the ice, Michael Zammitti Jr. was dead.
Keith Morrison: Did you have the sense that she felt some personal responsibility for this?
Attorney Bennett: I think she did. Yes, I do. When she's talking about mistakes she made, the infidelity–you can tell she's sort of suffering through that.
Would this mountain of evidence–circumstantial though it was–be enough to remove any reasonable doubt?
Jurors hadn't heard everything yet...there was still the defense to come...
But at the end of the prosecution case, some jurors felt they had not heard enough.
Juror: Get me to believe. Just get me to be– see one thing that proves that he's guilty. And there was nothing.
Much of the time and effort of a good defense attorney, as everybody knows, is occupied with that famously fuzzy phrase: reasonable doubt.
And–make no mistake–Attorney Gioia is a good defense attorney.
Certainly he knew that the state had a strong circumstantial case against his client Sean Fitzpatrick.
But was there reasonable doubt? Oh you bet there was, said Attorney Gioia.
Attorney Gioia: Yes, Sean Fitzpatrick had an affair with Michele Zammitti. Yes, he had feelings for her, but she had feelings for him. They both understood on some level that it was an affair that was not going to lead anywhere.
There was a whole other way of looking at all the evidence, said defense attorney Gioia, especially where it came to his client.
Did the police properly consider the idea that the murder was some sort of payback related to the Zamitti's work on the big dig?
Male Attorney: Did you tell the police that in the 20 years that you worked on the big dig, you made a lot of people angry?
Michael Zammitti Sr.: I didn't make 'em angry, I made 'em my friends. Because if I didn't make them my friends, I would've had no business.
Keith Morrison: The state–ruled out the idea that this had anything to do with the big dig–could that have had something to do with it?
Attorney Gioia: That's the question. Is there somebody out there who harbored such a horrible grudge and our defense was someone else did it.
Why? Because, said Sean's attorney, those state troopers failed to check out alibis for every possible suspect and failed to follow up potential leads.
Attorney Gioia: That was one of the reasons why there was reasonable doubt in this case.
For example, there was a certain nephew the Zammittis hired and later fired. The nephew sued, claimed the family owed him a lot of money - 170 thousand. Wasn't that a motive for murder?
Male attorney: And did you finally settle that lawsuit with him?
Michael Zammitti Sr.: We came to a settlement a settlement that they weren't happy with.
Male attorney: They were not happy with it?
Michael Zammitti Sr.: No.
But of course at the center of the whole business was Mike Jr.'s grieving widow, Michele. The defense had a choice: treat her with kid gloves, or hit her hard.
Gioia chose the latter. Maybe Michele was not completely honest, he implied. Maybe she only said she broke up with Sean.
Attorney Gioia: You continued to call him on a regular basis?
Michele Zammitti: Yes, I did.
Attorney Gioia: Right up until the weekend before March 13?
Michele Zammitti: Yes, I did.
Attorney Gioia: You didn't call him 30 times just because you were afraid he'd tell your husband, did you?
Michele Zammitti: There were lots of reasons why I continued to contact Sean.
Attorney Gioia: And one of the reasons was that you were somewhat–
Michele Zammitti: I still cared about Sean.
Attorney Gioia: Wishy-washy about breaking it off completely with Sean? You didn't want to lose that–friendship.
Michele Zammitti: Because I was–in fear of what Sean might say to my husband, and completely end my relationship between my husband. I didn't think my husband would be able to forgive me.
Gioia pushed her further. When police asked her to make that tape recorded phone call? Didn't she try, and fail, to get him to engage in a cover-up?
Attorney Gioia: He never tells you at any point in that two-hour conversation to make up a story to the police to cover your relationship, does he?
Michele Zammitti: No.
Attorney Gioia: And he never tells you at any point during that two-hour conversation that he did anything to your husband, or Chester Roberts, does he?
Michele Zammitti: He never told me he didn't.
Attorney Gioia: He never tells you he did, did he?
Michele Zammitti: No.
And as for her last meeting with Sean, the time she supposedly told him the only way they could be together was if something happened to her husband...That never even happened, did it, asked Gioia.
Attorney Gioia: Is it true, Ms. Zammitti, that the first time you ever said that, is when you were preparing to testify here?
Michele Zammitti: I believe that I said that a long time ago.
Attorney Gioia: It was a recent contrivance on her part and in fact, the government admitted that the first time she revealed to anyone that she had made the statement was–I think four weeks before the trial.
And finally, as for the idea that Sean would kill Mike expecting to get possession of Michele...
Defense attorney Gioia got Michele to admit that Sean had already accepted he couldn't be with her, and was actively planning to move away from New Hampshire.
Ergo, no motive for murder.
Attorney Gioia: But he had been planning to move away for quite a while? By quite a while, I'm talking about months prior to march of '06?
Michele Zammitti: Yeah, he had been talking about it. Yes.
So, was anything as the prosecution had made it seem?
Just wait till the jury got to hear what Mr. Oh-to-be-me had to say.
Court Clerk: Your honor, the defense calls Sean Fitzpatrick to the stand.
There was purpose in Sean Fitzpatrick's step as he made his way to the witness box.
There were things he needed to say...to acknowlege...to deny.
Questions, he and his lawyer decided, that the jury needed answered.
And the only place to do it, his very best chance, was under oath on the witness stand.
Not required of any defendant, of course, and potentially dangerous.
But the decision was made...Sean would be bold.
Keith Morrison: There's a risk in that, though. Isn't there?
Attorney Gioia: Oh, sure there's a risk–whenever a–accused person has to take the stand to defend themselves because–
Keith Morrison: Or hang themselves, as the case–
Attorney Gioia: Or hang themselves–
Keith Morrison: May be.
Attorney Gioia: Right. You can do either one.
The defense made the witness stand a confessional for Sean...a place where he would admit adultery, but never murder.
He even admitted lying to troopers about his affair with Michele, but only to protect her, he said.
Sean Fitzpatrick: I explained to 'em really just the way that it was. It was a hug–you know had happened from last year.
Attorney Gioia: And did you tell the police about this affair that you had been having with Michele?
Sean Fitzpatrick: No. No.
He panicked then, he said, convinced that the police had wrongfully targeted him as the prime suspect.
Sean Fitzpatrick: Well,
Sean Fitzpatrick: When– they left that night– I–Ii just like– first thing I did was I grabbed the yellow pages and started looking up lawyers.
Attorney Gioia: Why did you do that?
Sean Fitzpatrick: Well I had felt that I had cooperated. So–flags were just goin' off. Video: Fitzpatrick describes Zammittis’ relationship (on this page)
Flags weren't just going off because of his connection to Michele, the bigger problem was his connection to Fred Martin's pickup truck...and he had to address that on the stand.
Martin's truck appeared to be the one seen on surveillance video at the crime scene.
Attorney Gioia: Did you steal Fred Martin's truck?
Sean Fitzpatrick: No. I didn't–no. I didn't steal Fred's Martin's truck.
Attorney Gioia: Did you–drive Fred Martin's truck to Wakefield, Massachusetts, on March 13th?
Sean Fitzpatrick: No, no. I wasn't–I wasn't in Massachusetts.
Attorney Gioia: And tell the jury where you were at eight–8:00 in the morning of March 13th–
Sean Fitzpatrick: Eight o'clock–
Attorney Gioia: Two thousand–
Sean Fitzpatrick: –In the mornin', I was–
Attorney Gioia: And six.
Sean Fitzpatrick: –I was still in bed. Pick your time. Doesn't matter. I wasn't in Massachusetts. I was home. I wasn't down there. I certainly didn't do this.
Martin's dark blue pickup truck had certainly been driven from Freedom New Hampshire to Boston, there were without doubt traces of Sean's DNA on the steering wheel.
Yet Fred had already testified that before the murder, Sean was never once in that truck.
Or so Fred remembered.
But Sean...remembered differently.
Attorney Gioia: Do you remember–being inside his truck?
Sean Fitzpatrick: Yeah, there was an occasion I was in his truck. Sure.
Attorney Gioia: And–and when was that?
Sean Fitzpatrick: It was in the fall of 2005 when he was removing his– boat– for the season.
Attorney Gioia: –And– and what happened when you went down to help– Mr. Martin?
Sean Fitzpatrick: I had– gotten inside his– truck to help move it.
But, under oath, up here on the stand, how could Sean deny that as police were testing that truck for DNA and fingerprints...Sean was sending the ugly threatening letter to the Zammittis, the one on which they found his palm print?
Attorney Gioia: The note that said– "notice, close now or–
Sean Fitzpatrick: Yeah, I know what it–
Attorney Gioia: –Lose more family"?
Sean Fitzpatrick: –Said. Yeah.
Attorney Gioia: Do you know who wrote that note?
Sean Fitzpatrick: Yeah, I did.
So an admission, but with an emotional explanation for why.
Sean Fitzpatrick: I didn't want the Zammitti family thinking anything like that.
Attorney Gioia: Thinking like what?
Sean Fitzpatrick: People were saying that I did it. I felt– desperate, distraught– wish that I hadn't as soon as I did it. But I did it. I apologize for it. It's not somethin' that I would ask forgiveness for, because– Jesus, I wouldn't forgive anybody for doing somethin' like that. But I did it.
Attorney Gioia: And–and what was your state of mind when you wrote the note?
Sean Fitzpatrick: Well I wanted the police to leave me alone. They were following me. I was really, really freaked out.
Attorney Gioia: If you're in that position and you've got that kind of– investigation looking at you in such a close way, you–there may be a tendency to act irrationally and do something stupid.
Keith Morrison: It's obviously a cover-up– what else could it be?
Attorney Gioia: It's trying to divert the police attention from– from him.
And the neighbor, Gert Ducharme, who refused to back up his alibi? She was just wrong, said Sean…
But he saved his strongest denials for the woman he once said he loved: Michele.
Attorney Gioia: Did Michele tell you that the only way that you and Michele would ever get together is if something happened to Michael?
Sean Fitzpatrick: No, no. No, no that never happened. Absolutely not.
Instead, Sean said the conversation during that last rendezvous, was really about something else instead–a well worn subject: when and if Michele would ever leave her husband and get a divorce....
Sean Fitzpatrick: She had made some comments perhaps he would initiate a divorce, splitting up.
Attorney Gioia: What was your reaction to that meeting?
Sean Fitzpatrick: Ah pfff– yeah, it's like, "Here we go again." When she was talkin' I was just like, just goin', "Yada, yada, yada, yada," you know, not really paying attention.
I had heard it so–I had heard it before.
There was another story, too, said Sean, about that last, mysterious, meeting with Mike Jr., out on the lake ice, two days before the murder.
Of course, no one heard what they said to each other.
But here in court, Sean claimed it was not a confrontation at all...but a reconciliation.
Sean Fitzpatrick: You know, after this hug incident um–things were kind of awkward, I guess, is the way to–way to put it. We had never really spoken about it. So when I saw him I just–I said somethin' like–you know, "Hey, sorry about all the–stink you know, I probably used a different word but, "Sorry about the stuff last summer."
Attorney Gioia: And what was his reply to that?
Sean Fitzpatrick: He was like, "Chhh," you know, "I told you people would talk, you know?" You know– "it's no big deal. We're all friends up here, you know. No big deal."
No big deal...and no catalyst to turn to murder.
Attorney Gioia: Did you shoot–
Sean Fitzpatrick: I– I did not.
Attorney Gioia: –Michael Zammitti–
Sean Fitzpatrick: I did not–
Attorney Gioia: –And Chester Roberts?
Sean Fitzpatrick: No. I had nothing to do with these homicides. Nope. No way.
Attorney Gioia: We thought that Sean did a good job. He did what he had to do– on the stand. He told the jury–
Keith Morrison: It's not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Attorney Gioia: Well– it's hard to evaluate it. Against the jury, you know, how did he do–that's all that matters is the jury.
Ah yes, that. The jury.
What was about to happen behind that closed door would be fascinating, certainly.
And frustrating too, for the lawyers.
Sometimes, even the wildest expectations are not quite enough.
Linda Palumbo: Just because you sent a note, it doesn't mean you're a murderer.
It was hot in Boston in the summer of 2008...commuters drove into the glare of the morning sun from the web of tunnels under Boston harbor.
Jurors gathered in the air conditioned courtroom to hear Prosecutor Dan Bennett take his last best shot in the case against Sean Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick had been in jail since the summer of 2006.
Mike Zammitti Jr. had been in his grave 2 years and four months.
Attorney Bennett: this case is not about coincidence. It's about evidence. The evidence dictates he is the person that took those two people's lives.
And then defense attorney Gioia told the jury this case was not about motive, it was about one thing: Reasonable Doubt.
Find the slightest bit of doubt, and you must find Sean Fitzpatrick not guilty.
Attorney Gioia: We're not talking about, "He probably did it, maybe he did it. We're talking about proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And if you have a reasonable doubt, you must find him not guilty.
When they closed the doors to begin discussing evidence, the temperature in the jury room rose as fast as the summer heat outside.
Keith Morrison: Pretty contentious debate there.
Linda Palumbo: It was intense. It was intense.
Three of the twelve jurors discussed the case with Dateline. For most, the case revolved around one thing.
Fred Martin's pickup truck.
Did Sean steal it? What about Sean's DNA in it.
And was that the truck seen on surveillance video the morning of the murders. Battle lines were drawn.
Juror Jerzy Weyman: There has to be a direct connection between the trip of the truck and– and the murder.
Keith Morrison: Did you all–agree with that point, by the way?
Juror Linda Palumbo: No.
Juror Cathy Masucci: No.
The state proved that Fred Martin's EZ Pass did go through tolls between Boston and New Hampshire on the morning or the murders, but was the EZ Pass in Fred's truck?
Of course it was, said some. How do you know, said others.
Juror Cathy Masucci: They only know that the EZ Pass went through, which can be taken out of a truck and put into another truck.
And those surveillance photos of a dark pickup truck outside AllState Concrete? Sure looked like Fred's truck, but far too out of focus for two of the jurors.
Juror Linda Palumbo: The pictures were very, very difficult to–to point out any identifying features on this truck.
Keith Morrison: Which created doubt for you.
Juror Linda Palumbo: Absolutely.
Juror Cathy Masucci: Absolutely.
But remember, police found Sean's DNA on the steering wheel of Fred's truck. The truck whose EZ Pass went through the toll booths to Boston. Did that make the case against him?
Juror Jerzy Weyman: There's strong DNA evidence. It was Sean Fitzpatrick who had DNA on the wheel.
But one juror said there was a simple explanation for that.
Juror Cathy Masucci: Everybody was over at everybody's house. Everybody was in everybody's vehicle. Everybody was helping each other move this, do that.
And then there was Sean's intended alibi witness, his elderly neighbor, Gert Ducharme. Sean said Gert saw him at home around 9:15 or so. Gert said it was an hour later.
If he was right, he couldn't have committed the murder. If she was right, he could have.
And finally, what did the jury think about Sean?
Sean Fitzpatrick: When she was talkin’, I was like here we go again.
Outside the jury room, some court observers described his testimony as, occasionally, almost flippant, over confident.
Keith Morrison: Here we have Sean Fitzpatrick, actually, doing something which is unusual for a defendant in a murder case. Seems to me he was a little bit cocky, wasn't he?
Juror Cathy Masucci: No, I didn't find him to be cocky.
Juror Linda Palumbo: I think he was nervous.
Juror Cathy Masucci: I thought he got–he had a lot of courage getting up there and testifying for himself and for me to think that someone would do that, it show–kind of shows me that they're trying to prove their innocence.
Keith Morrison: Everybody else said he was lying.
Juror Jerzy Weyman: During his testimony I–I started leaning guilty. So yes in my view, his testimony did not help him.
And when Sean admitted on the witness stand that he lied about that threatening letter after his palm print was found on the envelope, it did not play well for jurors.
Juror Linda Palumbo: If he lied about that, then yeah, it's possible he lied about other things.
Juror Linda Palumbo: Just because you sent a note, it doesn't mean you're a murderer.
Deliberations dragged on ...day one turned to two, then three. Tensions rose exponentially.
Judge Kathe Tuttman: I've received a note from the jury.
After five days, jurors sent a note to the judge…was it a verdict? And would they find Sean Fitzpatrick guilty? The families of the murder victims held their breath, and waited to hear.
The families of two murder victims, Michael Zammitti Jr. and Chester Roberts, packed the front row seats in the courtroom. The air thick with anticipation. Judge Kathe Tuttman had a note from jurors, a confusing note.
Judge Tuttman: It says, "Although we have conducted a very extensive re–review the case–" I think it means to say review of the case. "We remain deadlocked."
Jurors filed back into the courtroom.
Judge Tuttman: The jury is not–willing to continue deliberations. I am required under our law to declare a mistrial.
Exasperated family members were hit hard. How could jurors not see the evidence, they wondered.
Keith Morrison: Was there any thought that–there wouldn't be a second trial, ever?
Attorney Bennett: No. I woulda tried this case 1,000 times.
Keith Morrison: 1,000 times?
Attorney Bennett: I woulda tried this case for– every day of the rest of my life.
Keith Morrison: Why?
Attorney Bennett: Because he's guilty.
Sean Fitzpatrick, the man on trial for two counts of first degree murder also seemed well disappointed there was no verdict.
Keith Morrison: Was that hung jury–a victory for you?
Attorney Gioia: I don't know if you would call it a victory. But–I think a lot of–defense attorneys would say anything that's not a conviction– is–is a victory.
Ten jurors had voted to convict Fitzpatrick. These two women jurors were the lone holdouts for acquittal.
Juror Cathy Masucci: If you have reasonable doubt, it is not up to us to say he is guilty. It's up to the man upstairs.
Well, not exactly. Six months later, now in the bitter cold of a Boston winter, a second jury assembled to hear the case of Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Sean Fitzpatrick, round two.
Michael Zammitti Sr. had to testify all over again. For him, it was torture testifying about finding his son dead.
Michael Zammitti: I held Michael's hand.
Michael Zammitti: Then I went downstairs, and I, like, fell on the floor.
The victim's wife, Michele Zammitti, had to recount for a second time the embarrassing details of her love affair with Sean Fitzpatrick on trial for killing her husband.
Michele Zammitti: A police officer came over and asked me if I was Mrs. Zammitti and I said, "Yes." And he told me that Michael was dead.
But this time, the defense took a different tack.
Keith Morrison: In the second trial, you didn't put him on the stand. How come?
Attorney Gioia: Didn't have to. The prosecutor put him on the stand in the second trial.
Because just in case Fitzpatrick decided not to testify this time, prosecutors made sure the jury would hear him anyway. They played audio excerpts of Fitzpatrick's testimony from the first trial.
Sean Fitzpatrick: This wasn't something that was–ah sexual. It was–ah both ways. There were emotions between us.
Jurors from the second trial listened to the tape intensely....and six of them discussed the case later with Dateline.
Female Juror: He sounded a little bit like–aloof. Joking around a little bit too much from what we hear–you know, and a lot of ladee dadee da’s. And just–and not what I would have expected somebody who was testifying for themselves
Female Juror: The "Oh, to be me" license plate was a big–
Female Juror: A big talk in the–the jury room. ‘Cause we didn't see anything that magnificent or wonderful. We thought he might wanna change it to "woe to be me."
Once again, jurors wrestled with the evidence surrounding the dark blue pickup truck - the surveillance photos, the DNA, and the EZ Pass records...
Could prosecutors prove Sean Fitzpatrick's trail was linked to the killer's this time?
Keith Morrison: Was there anybody who didn't think he was driving that truck?
Juror Rob Rubin: Well, I–I–I thought about it a little bit. You know, one thing the defense attorney when he cross-examined the toll engineer the defense attorney asked, "But can you identify that this was the truck and he was in the truck, the defendant?" And– and he said, "No, I can't."
And that threatening letter Sean admitted sending to the Zammittis....?
Juror Rob Rubin: If you were totally innocent, that would have to be an unusual, very unusual way of going about it.
The first jury declared deadlock after five days of struggle.
Four days into the second jury's deliberation, the foreperson sent a note to the judge.
Judge: This note represents, um, a statement that the jurors are effectively deadlocked.
Female Juror: There were some jurors who felt he had done it, but the prosecution didn't solidify it enough for 'em. They needed more evidence.
So then that's when we went to the judge. Okay, we're at an impasse. Tell us where to go from here.
The judge told them where to go.
Female Juror: "Your job's not done. Go back and continue to work."
And it got worse. That same day, one juror was dismissed for medical reasons...When the alternate was picked, the judge told them, "Start from scratch."
Female Juror: I went in. And I could see a bunch of frustrated faces like, "are you kidding me? We have to start all over?"
Walked in and discovered that two jurors were holding out for aquittal. Just like the first trial.
Juror Rob Rubin: I thought the defense argument– that– you really have to place the defendant in that truck the prosecution hasn't proved that beyond a reasonable doubt.
And so they deliberated for the fifth day, and then a sixth day. And on the seventh...there was a buzz in the courtroom...
But this time, it wasn't a deadlock. The jury had reached a verdict.
Bailiff: All rise...
Judge: I have been informed the jury has reached a verdict...
Almost three years had passed since the cold March rain that greeted the murders at Allstate Concrete.
The case against Sean Fitzpatrick, the man charged with the two murders, was circumstantial, but the motive was primal.
He had an affair with the victim's wife and, prosecutors say, killed her husband and then the only witness who saw him do it.
Court clerk: Mr. foreperson, has your jury unanimously agreed upon both verdicts?
Jury Foreman: Correct. Yes.
Court clerk: May I have them please?
The families of Michael Zammitti Jr. and Chester Roberts squeezed into the first rows of the spectator gallery.
Zammitti's father, Mike Sr. wore the same disembodied look on his face he had carried throughout both trials.
Once before these families were disappointed by a hung jury...now, fearful of a second devastation, they held their breath…
Court clerk: Mr. foreperson. Count one, charging Sean Fitzpatrick with murder in the first degree of Michael Zammitti Jr..
What say to you this indictment sir? Is the defendant guilty or not guilty?
Jury Foreman: Guilty.
Guilty. Sean Fitzpatrick shook his head...and looked down...
The families gasped, let out a breath, cried.
As the clerk read guilty on both counts, Fitzpatrick seemed to be trying to tell jurors something, although they were out of earshot...
He looked at the jury box. He kept repeating this phrase: “You have the wrong person.”
He had denied it all along. And here, still, under the drone of the court official's words… his mantra contined:
...the wrong person.
...the wrong person.
Keith Morrison: Was the verdict a surprise, do you think, to your client?
Attorney Gioia: You hope for the best but you expect the worst. I think that was the attitude he had.
Keith Morrison: When they came back, finally, did you have a sense of what they would say?
Attorney Bennett: Yes. I thought they were gonna say guilty, because I thought the evidence was there.
Keith Morrison: That moment of suspense wasn't as bad as that–
Attorney Bennett: No, it was still suspenseful, because I had been wrong the first time. It had been a hung jury.
Court clerk: Murder in the first degree of Chester Roberts.
In the courtroom, the clerk polled members of the jury, did each one agree with the verdict?
Then, with a shock, the collective attention in the room…shifted.
The victim's father, Michael Zammitti Sr. appeared to be having a heart attack...
Family, friends, court officers came to his aid.
But it wasn't a heart attack.
It was a moment as frightening as any in the long trial.
The explosion of a broken heart.
He did not make it as far as Sean Fitzpatrick. He was carried from the courtroom. His wife tried to follow, but was blocked. His daughter wept in a relative’s arms.
Attorney Bennett: His pain is as close to the surface as anybody I've ever met. And I just felt like Mike just couldn't keep that pain down any longer. And I was just hoping–he didn't cause something to happen in court that we would all re–regret. In the sense that–
Keith Morrison: That all those folks surrounding him, and make–
Attorney Bennett: That he would– go over the bar and go after Sean in– in the middle of it, or something like that. So that–that's–my thought was, he just couldn't keep that pain down any longer.
Michael Zammitti Sr. was taken to an adjoining courtroom while the jury was dismissed. Afterward the families, as they had throughout this trial, found comfort in one another. Video: Michele on her imagined life with her lover
Michele Zammitti, the victim's wife, was not in court for the verdict. She was at home with her three children, who faced many years of life without a father. What the jurors felt for her was...pity.
Keith Morrison: Was she responsible in some way for what happened?
Female Juror: I don't think anyone could ever imagine that a–a person would–would take someone's life like that they were supposed to be friends with. I don't think she ever imagined anything that horrific would ever happen.
Female Juror: And she's going to have to live with that, and that will be her, you know, her penance unfortunately. You know, but I–as far as her, you know, she wasn't on trial.
Four days later, Michele Zammitti and her three children were in court for the sentencing. Everyone could see for themselves the two girls and a boy who Sean Fitzpatrick had left fatherless.
Julia, the eldest, asked prosecutor Bennett to read her statement.
He made it through, but only just.
Attorney Bennett: How the death of my father affected me was because I can't see him anymore
Attorney Bennett: Except in my dreams.
Nothing anyone could do about that pain, of course. Or this torment:
Michele Zammitti: Had this unspeakable event not happened could my husband, Michael, had forgiven me for the mistakes I had made? I miss Michael for uncountable reasons. But to me, he will always be the love of my life.
The judge imposed the sentence: life without parole.
Judge: Consecutive life sentences are appropriate and shall be imposed.
Perhaps he thought he was doing it for love...
Perhaps he did not think, Mr. O-2-B-ME, that a love which destroys is not love at all.
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