County Superior Court
Plaintiff: John E. Sullivan, III, Esq. John Perrotta, Esq.
Defendant: Joseph J. Voccola, Esq. Robert Watt, Esq.
Lepore (Defendant) has been indicted by the Statewide Grand
Jury with (1) the murder of John O'Neil (Mr. O'Neil)
in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-23-1; (2) assault and
battery upon Officer Steven Melidossian (Officer Melidossian)
in violation of § 11-5-3; (3) assault and battery upon
Officer Samuel Maldonado (Officer Maldonado) in violation of
§ 11-5-3; (4) assault and battery upon Trooper Justin
Andreozzi (Trooper Andreozzi) in violation of § 11-5-3;
(5) assault and battery upon Trooper Daniel Gazzola (Trooper
Gazzola) in violation of § 11-5-3; and (6) willfully
beating, kicking, and striking a dog owned by the Rhode
Island State Police, to wit, K-9 Riggs (the K-9 or Riggs), in
violation of G.L. 1956 § 4-1-30.
waived his right to a jury trial in accordance with Super. R.
Crim. P. 23(a). See G.L. 1956 § 12-17-3. Over
the course of four days, the State of Rhode Island (the
State), during its case in chief, presented fourteen
witnesses, including three lay witnesses, six police
officers, four firefighters, and one expert witness in the
field of toxicology. Further, approximately sixty-six
exhibits were admitted into evidence as full exhibits.
Defendant called one witness during his case in chief, Dr.
Ronald M. Stewart (Dr. Stewart), an expert witness in the
field of forensic psychiatry. The State, during its rebuttal
case, called one witness, Dr. Martin Kelly (Dr. Kelly), an
expert witness in the field of forensic psychiatry. Following
closing arguments, the Court reserved its decision.
Court is required in accordance with Rule 23(c) of the Rhode
Island Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure to make
specific findings of facts based upon the relevant evidence
at trial. Except where specifically indicated in this
Decision that certain evidence is not being considered, this
Court finds the witnesses that testified during the
State's case in chief credible. This Court makes the
following findings of fact.
before May 28, 2016
Lane (Mr. Lane) is a senior cook at the Whispering Pines
Conference Center on the University of Rhode Island's
(URI) W. Alton Jones Campus (Whispering Pines Conference
Center or Whispering Pines) and has been employed at
Whispering Pines for the past nineteen years. Four years
before the incident, Defendant was hired to work as a
cook's helper at the same facility. Mr. Lane acted as
Defendant's supervisor. Mr. Lane stated Defendant's
hours were 12:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. and described Defendant as
an "easygoing guy, " claiming that the pair got
along very well for the most part.
Diprete (Mr. Diprete) is a cook at the Whispering Pines
Conference Center and has been employed there for eight
years. Mr. Diprete worked with Defendant for five years and
testified that although Defendant "wasn't the
hardest worker, " he always got along with Defendant.
Mr. Diprete also expressed the sentiment that Defendant was
easygoing. Further, Mr. Diprete testified that Defendant had
always acted professionally at work, and he was not aware of
any problems or arguments that Defendant had with other
employees prior to May 28, 2016.
Murphy (Mr. Murphy) is the Evening and Weekend Manager at the
Whispering Pines Conference Center. Mr. Murphy has worked at
the campus for ten years and has worked alongside Defendant
for approximately six years. Mr. Murphy described Defendant
as being about 6'1" and weighing about 350 pounds.
Moreover, he described Defendant's work habits as
"adequate" and had not observed any confrontations
involving Defendant prior to May 28, 2016.
Pines Employees' Observations on May 28, 2016
Lane Asks Defendant to Leave
28, 2016, Mr. Diprete arrived to work at 12:00 P.M., while
Mr. Lane, Mr. Murphy, and Defendant arrived at the Whispering
Pines Conference Center at 2:00 P.M. Mr. Lane noticed
Defendant had bloodshot eyes, appeared unkempt, was slurring
his words, and "just wasn't acting right." Mr.
Lane requested that Defendant go home. Although Defendant
agreed, he continued to work for approximately fifteen
minutes before leaving the kitchen. However, Defendant
returned to the kitchen shortly afterwards, acting confused
and upset. Mr. Lane said "it seemed like he did not want
to leave." Defendant was observed talking to himself
while pacing around the kitchen "mumbling" about
aliens and extra-terrestrial life on Earth. Mr. Lane then
asked Defendant to retrieve some bread from another room, and
it took Defendant quite a while to complete the task. Mr.
Lane stated Defendant repeated the phrase, "they are
here, the government knows about it and they are covering it
up." Mr. Lane testified that he had discussed the
possibility of alien life at work before with Defendant, but
that it usually "involved physics" and not the
"gibberish" that Defendant repeated that day.
Diprete did not initially pay attention to Defendant, as Mr.
Diprete was busy preparing for a wedding that the kitchen was
catering that day. However, he eventually noticed that
Defendant was acting "out of character" and
appeared agitated. When Defendant was again asked to go home,
Mr. Diprete became aware that something was not quite right
with Defendant. Mr. Diprete could also hear Defendant
mumbling that "something is coming" over and over
to himself, but Defendant did not indicate what.
the same time, Mr. Murphy arrived at Whispering Pines and
proceeded straight to his office. At approximately 2:30 P.M.,
Mr. Murphy went down to the main kitchen. Mr. Murphy also
noticed that there was something wrong with Defendant, who
appeared to be in an "intoxicated state."
Defendant's eyes were "glassy, " and "he
kept making inappropriate movements with his clothing, "
such as pulling up his shirt. Defendant also was not wearing
his hat or apron, which is part of his job requirements. Mr.
Murphy explained that this was uncharacteristic of Defendant.
Mr. Lane's failed attempts to get Defendant to leave, Mr.
Murphy became involved. Mr. Murphy walked outside into the
parking lot area with Defendant and asked him to leave and go
home for the day. Mr. Murphy threatened to call the police if
Defendant did not comply; Defendant looked "enraged at
that point." After the conversation, Defendant followed
Mr. Murphy back into the kitchen, and, finally, Mr. Murphy
convinced Defendant to leave.
Physical Altercation at Whispering Pines
fifteen minutes after Defendant left the premises, Mr.
Diprete went outside on his lunch break. Mr. Diprete
testified that he sat in his air-conditioned car because it
was a very hot day. While Mr. Diprete was sitting in his car,
he witnessed Defendant return to the parking lot driving his
Mazda 6 series. Defendant pulled in and angled in front of
Mr. Diprete's car to talk to him. Defendant did not make
sense during the conversation, making statements such as
"something's coming"; when asked what was
coming, Defendant responded, "I can't tell
you." Mr. Diprete noticed Defendant was holding a beer
during this conversation.
Lippe (Mr. Lippe), a co-worker at Whispering Pines, walked
out to the parking lot shortly after the conversation between
Mr. Diprete and Defendant ended. Mr. Lippe walked over to his
car, got in, and began changing his shirt for the wedding
that was taking place later that day. At that point,
completely unprovoked, Defendant walked over to Mr. Lippe,
pulled Mr. Lippe out of his car, wrestled him to the ground,
and placed him in a headlock. Mr. Diprete heard the scuffle,
exited his car, and jumped on top of Defendant, trying to
pull Defendant's arm away from Mr. Lippe's neck.
According to Mr. Diprete, Mr. Lippe appeared
"reddish-purple." Defendant eventually let go, got
up and said a few words to Mr. Lippe, then left in his Mazda
6 series. According to Mr. Diprete, after the assault,
Defendant "almost seemed normal for a second."
later, Mr. Lippe and Mr. Diprete went into the kitchen and
reported that Defendant had assaulted Mr. Lippe. Mr. Murphy
immediately called the URI Police. URI Police instructed Mr.
Murphy to call the West Greenwich Police Department because
they were closer to the scene; however, Mr. Murphy requested
that the URI Police dispatch the West Greenwich Police
Department instead. Mr. Murphy testified that when the West
Greenwich Police and the State Police arrived at Whispering
Pines, he told the State Police that he believed Defendant
was on drugs or some form of illegal substance because
Defendant's erratic behavior was very uncharacteristic.
Greenwich Police Dispatched to Whispering Pines
28, 2016, Officer Maldonado was dispatched to an altercation
at Whispering Pines Conference Center. Officer Maldonado has
been a patrol officer for the West Greenwich Police
Department for six years. He was an officer in the Warwick
Police Department for twenty-one years prior to joining the
West Greenwich Police Department, and has twenty-one years of
way to Whispering Pines, Officer Maldonado passed an
abandoned vehicle with the doors open at the intersection of
Francis Horn Drive and Wheatley Road. Officer Maldonado
stopped, observed a six-pack of beer and a cell phone in the
car, and then continued driving to Whispering Pines. Officer
Maldonado later discovered this abandoned vehicle belonged to
Whispering Pines, Mr. Murphy greeted Officer Maldonado and
introduced Officer Maldonado to Mr. Lippe, the victim of the
alleged assault. Mr. Lippe told Officer Maldonado that
Defendant started hitting him unprovoked. Officer Maldonado
was given a description of Defendant, and Officer Maldonado
asked Mr. Lippe if he wanted to press charges. Because Mr.
Lippe did not want to press charges against Defendant,
Officer Maldonado left Whispering Pines.
and the Physical Altercation with Police
Call Placed by Mr. O'Neil
approximately 4:12 P.M. on May 28, 2016, Mr. O'Neil
placed a call to 9-1-1. A recording of the 9-1-1 call was
played for the Court and lasted approximately ten minutes.
During the call, Mr. O'Neil reported an individual on his
property acting "very strangely, threatening [Mr.
O'Neil]." Mr. O'Neil gave a description of the
individual that matched the description of Defendant.
Defendant then approached Mr. O'Neil. Defendant could be
heard swearing and yelling as Mr. O'Neil screamed
"ahh" and "help me." West Greenwich
Police dispatched officers to the scene, and the dispatcher
asked Mr. O'Neil if he could get away from Defendant;