Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane, Patricia M. Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Branford Police Chief Kevin Halloran today announced that a federal grand jury in New Haven has returned an indictment charging JOHN VAILETTE, also known as “John John” and “Snagglepuss,” 42, and STEVEN MARTONE, also known as “Crash,” 45, with committing an arson in Branford in 2006 that caused the death Kathy Hardy.
The indictment was returned on March 26. MARTONE was arrested this morning at his home in North Branford. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford and is detained pending a hearing that is scheduled for April 2. VAILETTE is currently incarcerated in federal prison.
As alleged in the indictment, at approximately 8:45 a.m. on the morning of March 7, 2006, the Branford Emergency Communications Center received 911 calls reporting a fire at 27 Little Bay Lane in Branford, a single-family home rented by Kathy Hardy. After members of the Branford Fire Department arrived at the scene and extinguished the fire, firefighters located the body of Kathy Hardy, 39, on the second floor of the residence. Fire Department investigators ultimately determined that the fire was initiated by accelerants located in the first floor living room area and on the staircase leading to the second floor of the dwelling. An autopsy performed on Kathy Hardy concluded that the cause of death was smoke inhalation, and her death was classified as a homicide.
The indictment alleges that approximately two days after the fire, investigators located a truck regularly used by VAILETTE, which had been hidden in New Haven for a period of time in the aftermath of the fire. The truck, which was found at the home of another close associate of VAILETTE’s, contained a silver serving platter and jewelry that belonged to Kathy Hardy. The indictment also alleges that, after the fire, both VAILETTE and MARTONE made incriminating statements to other individuals.
“These two defendants are charged with setting the fire that killed Kathy Hardy, a mother of three, in 2006,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly. “This lengthy, complex and ongoing investigation is being conducted with great care and professionalism by dedicated members of the FBI and Branford Police Department, with the assistance of state and local fire investigators. I want to thank them and our state partners from the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office for their diligence and excellent work in this ongoing investigation. Together, we seek justice for Ms. Hardy, her family and loved ones.”
“The action today is the result of extensive collaboration and cooperation by law enforcement agencies at the municipal, state and federal levels, and all of these agencies are to be commended for their commitment and dedication to resolving this tragic case,” stated Chief State’s Attorney Kane.
“This was a callous and horrific crime,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick. “That the dedicated investigators never relented in their pursuit of justice is a tribute to them and their respective agencies. I’d like to thank the Branford Police and Fire Departments as well as the Connecticut State Police - Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit for their perseverance in securing an indictment and for their steadfast commitment to the rest of the judicial process.”
“The horrific death of Kathy Hardy and subsequent arduous investigation has been at the forefront of Branford Police Department for the past eight years,” stated Branford Police Chief Halloran. “The scope of this investigation would have been impossible without the support of the New Haven office of the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, Branford Fire Department, and other local, state and federal agencies involved in the investigation.”
If convicted of the charge of committing an arson resulting in death, VAILETTE and MARTONE face up to a lifetime term of imprisonment, or death, should the government pursue the death penalty in this matter.
U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Branford Police Department and the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, with the assistance of the Connecticut State Police, Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit and the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John H. Durham and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael A. Gailor and Kevin M. Shay.