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Jim Kenyon: Hit-and-run victim’s brother hopes for closure

  • Phil Lahar, the brother of Eric Lahar who was killed by a still unsolved hit-and-run in 1977, is holding a Hartford High School graduation photo of his brother at his home in Vienna, Va., on July 9, 2019. Eric Lahar's 1966 yearbook, his group photo with the Rutgers Glee Club and a childhood picture with Phil in front of the family fireplace is also shown. Phil Lahar is hopeful that newly released CSI information and an outpouring of public interest will lead to the identification of who hit Eric Lahar. (Yon Chung photograph)



Valley News Columnist
Saturday, July 13, 2019

The story of the mysterious Norwich hit-and-run in July 1977 that resulted in the death of 28-year-old Eric Lahar couldn’t have been told without the help of his younger brother.

Phil Lahar contacted the Valley News in May to see if the paper was interested in writing about the circumstances around the death of his only sibling and the lengthy police investigation that followed.

It had been decades since the paper wrote about the hit-and-run that remains unsolved today — 42 years later.

Over the years, Charlotte Lahar had obtained Norwich police and Vermont medical examiner records that pertained to her oldest son’s case.

After his mother’s death in April 2018, Phil Lahar began sifting through the documents that his mother kept in a cardboard box. He also had collected newspaper clippings about the case.

He shared the investigative reports, including the autopsy findings, and newspaper accounts with me. Current Norwich Police Chief Jennifer Frank also allowed me to review the case file that her department still keeps.

Investigative reports and notes in the police file included names of people that I used in the retelling of this story.

Some of the people are now deceased. Herbert Fellows, the Norwich police chief at the time, died in 2001. Ken Olsen, the Hanover dentist who was fishing with Lahar the night he went missing, died in 2017. Everett Straw, one of the roadside mowers who discovered Lahar’s body, died in 1982.

George Strong, the state police detective who assisted Norwich police in the investigation, is now retired and still lives in Vermont, but I couldn’t reach him. Other people mentioned in police files couldn’t be located.

Phil Lahar, 68, is retired, after working for more than 30 years for government contractors in the telecom and information technology industry in the Washington, D.C., area. He lives in Vienna, Va., 15 miles outside Washington.

His father, Art, died in 2005 at age 91. His mother, Charlotte was 92 when she died last year. For the last decade of her life, she lived in Virginia to be closer to her son and family.

Phil Lahar told me that he waited until now to talk publicly about his brother’s case out of respect for his parents.

“I didn’t want to pursue it because they didn’t want to pursue it,” he said.

From his parents’ standpoint, “more attention wasn’t going to bring Eric back,” he said.

But Phil Lahar thought it was important to revisit the story. Many of the details of his brother’s hit-and-run “were never disclosed and needed to be aired,” he wrote me in an email. “The person who killed Eric may still be amongst us.”

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.