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New Hampshire man tells police he shot and killed wife in Bolton in camper, court records show

  • The van in which Joseph Ferlazzo is accused of shooting his wife Emily to death is seen at the Vermont State Police barracks in St. Albans on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VT Digger Glenn Russell— VTDigger

Published: 10/20/2021 10:01:31 PM
Modified: 10/20/2021 10:01:37 PM

BURLINGTON — A New Hampshire man told police he shot and killed his wife in a camper van in Bolton, Vt., on Saturday, according to court records made public Wednesday.

Joseph Ferlazzo, 41, of Northfield, N.H., told investigators he killed 22-year-old Emily Ferlazzo, according to a police affidavit. He previously told family members she was missing.

Police said Joseph Ferlazzo shot Emily Ferlazzo twice and then dismembered her body, leaving her remains in the camper, according to the affidavit.

Hours later, he told police, he went to breakfast with his sister and her boyfriend in Waterbury before returning to New Hampshire, according to the affidavit.

Joseph Ferlazzo sat in a room inside the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans late Wednesday morning, appearing by video for his arraignment on a charge of first-degree murder in Emily Ferlazzo’s death.

He pleaded not guilty in Chittenden County Superior criminal court in Burlington. If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Judge Gregory Rainville agreed to a request from Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George to hold Joseph Ferlazzo in custody without bail until a hearing is held on the strength of the evidence against him.

“The affidavit does support (a) great weight of evidence,” Rainville said as the roughly five-minute hearing came to a close. “Mr. Ferlazzo, you are going to be held without bail at least for the immediate future.”

William Kidney, an attorney representing Joseph Ferlazzo, said during the hearing that he was not contesting the decision not to set bail.

Prudy Schwarz, Emily Ferlazzo’s stepmother, told that her stepdaughter was a happy woman who loved to sing.

“She was the girl that ran around in polka-dot pants and a striped shirt, dancing,” Schwarz told the news site.

Mychamplainvalley also reported that Schwarz had met Joseph Ferlazzo only once and the family “didn’t like him” because something felt off.

“I said it’s something with his eyes; he looks evil in his eyes,” she was reported as saying.

VTDigger’s attempts to reach Emily Ferlazzo’s family on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

What police were told

Detective Sgt. James Vooris filed an affidavit released Wednesday in support of the murder charge. It laid out new details police say Joseph Ferlazzo provided Tuesday when investigators questioned him about the killing.

Joseph Ferlazzo told police at the barracks that he and his wife arrived in Bolton between 7 and 8 p.m. Friday, Vooris wrote. Ferlazzo also said his sister had rented a room through Airbnb and was also staying at the resort with her boyfriend, according to the affidavit.

After visiting with his sister and her boyfriend, Joseph Ferlazzo told police, he and his wife were in the camper, arguing. He told police Emily Ferlazzo was lying on the bed when he grabbed his Glock handgun from inside a cabinet and “jumped on top of her,” shooting her twice in the head.

Joseph Ferlazzo said he placed a garbage bag over her head and moved her to the bathroom area of the bus, the affidavit stated. Hours later, on Saturday morning, Joseph Ferlazzo told police that he went with his sister and her boyfriend to get breakfast in Waterbury.

After eating breakfast, he said he returned to the camper, moving it from Bolton to a friend’s home on Meadowbrook Lane in St. Albans Town, according to the affidavit. There, Joseph Ferlazzo told police, he used a handsaw to dismember Emily Ferlazzo’s body, placing body parts in garbage bags in the camper.

Police, after obtaining a search warrant, said they found the garbage bags in the vehicle. Police said they also recovered a handsaw from behind the driver’s seat and a Glock handgun on the bed.

An autopsy performed Wednesday at the state’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the victim’s identity as Emily Ferlazzo. The cause of death was determined to be gunshot wounds to the head, with the manner of death ruled a homicide, Vermont State Police said in a release late Wednesday afternoon.

Emily Ferlazzo’s mother told police that Joseph Ferlazzo previously assaulted his wife, and she had seen scratches and bruises on their daughter after the assaults.

George, the Chittenden County state’s attorney, said after Joseph Ferlazzo’s hearing that she was not aware of any prior criminal record for him. She added that it isn’t uncommon for domestic abusers to have clean records, as victims are often afraid to come forward.

“Thousands of women a year are killed by their partners, and most of the time, there is some history of violence between them, whether or not police are involved,” George said.

Cover story falls apart

Wednesday’s court filing also revealed how Ferlazzo’s initial cover story about his wife missing fell apart.

Emily Ferlazzo’s family reported her missing Monday, after she did not return with her husband from the trip to Bolton.

Emily and Joseph Ferlazzo had been living in a vehicle — described by police as a Chevrolet Express bus converted into a camper — on a property in New Hampshire owned by her mother and stepfather.

David Bass, Emily Ferlazzo’s stepfather, told police she and her husband left in the camper Friday for a camping trip in Bolton, celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary.

Emily Ferlazzo’s parents also told police that Joseph Ferlazzo returned home to New Hampshire Monday at about 6 p.m. without his wife, telling them that they had argued Saturday in a parking lot in Bolton.

The parents said Joseph Ferlazzo did not reveal what the argument was about, but said that Emily Ferlazzo tried to leave and he restrained her and she kicked him in the groin.

Joseph Ferlazzo said he left to go to a store and left his wife behind. He said she told him she would be getting an Uber to go back to New Hampshire, the parents told police.

The parents reported that Joseph Ferlazzo told them that, when he returned from the store, he could not find Emily Ferlazzo and had not seen her since.

After speaking with Joseph Ferlazzo on Monday, the affidavit stated, the parents called police to report Emily Ferlazzo missing.

A friend turns him in

At about 12:05 a.m. Tuesday, the filing stated, Spencer Lemons called 911 to report that Joseph Ferlazzo, a friend who had returned to Vermont in a Jeep Wrangler, had just told him he had killed Emily Ferlazzo. He said that the camper was located at a residence in St. Albans Town on Meadowbrook Lane, and Joseph Ferlazzo told him Emily Ferlazzo’s body was inside that vehicle.

Lemons told police that he kicked Joseph Ferlazzo out of the vehicle they were driving in together at that time and called 911. Police said they responded to Meadowbrook Lane and seized the camper, taking it to the St. Albans police barracks.

At that time, police were looking for Joseph Ferlazzo to question him about the disappearance of his wife, issuing a press release Tuesday asking for the public’s help in finding him.

State Police Detective Sgt. Aimee Nolan found him inside a Maplefields store in St. Albans, and he agreed to go to the St. Albans barracks where he confessed to killing his wife, according to police.

Past homicide cases

George said following the hearing that there is no indication at this point that Joseph Ferlazzo intends to pursue an insanity defense.

“My guess would be that anybody that commits a homicide has some sort of mental health issue, but that is very different from being legally diagnosed with a mental disease that would allow for an insanity defense,” she told reporters.

The prosecutor came under fire two years ago when she dropped three cases, including two murders and one attempted murder. She said that based on expert opinions, she did not believe she could rebut planned insanity defenses.

Federal prosecutors or the Vermont Attorney General’s Office later refiled charges in each of those cases.

The Ferlazzo case “does not have any evidence that has been shown at this time that that’s an issue,” George said after the hearing. “If there is and we believe we can overcome it, like Steven Bourgoin, I will try the case.”

Bourgoin was found guilty two years ago of killing five teenagers in a wrong-way collision in 2016 and sentenced to 30 years to life in prison. Bourgoin attempted to use the insanity defense, but the jury rejected the defense.

Domestic violence is prevalent, experts say

Nicole Kubon, executive director of Burlington-based Steps to End Domestic Violence, and Karen Tronsgard-Scott, executive director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said people should remember that domestic violence is common, and most incidents don’t rise to the level where someone would kill their partner.

Domestic violence accounts for about half of all homicides in Vermont, Kubon said.

During the pandemic, her organization has seen an increase in calls to their hotline and in the level of violence in situations they are supporting.

“The increase in prevalence of people who are stuck at home with an abuser, who can’t seek respite with family or friends, is definitely part of what’s increasing the level of violence that we’re seeing,” she said.

Kubon said even though some murder cases get dismissed because the prosecutor determines there is not enough evidence to rebut a defendant’s planned insanity defense, it’s important to remember that mental health is not an excuse for domestic violence.

“We work with folks who have lots of mental health challenges but that don’t resort to physical violence,” she said.

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