Murder suspect’s death in jail called natural
SPRINGFIELD — A man accused of killing a West Haven father and son died in the Springfield prison while awaiting trial on two counts of second-degree murder.
Sylvester Labartino, 71, of Hubbardton, had been behind bars on $750,000 bail since his arrest Feb. 12, when Vermont State Police say he gunned down Shane Plummer, 57, and his son, Christopher Plummer, 26.
Labartino had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial when he died Wednesday night of what state police investigators and the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections believe were natural causes.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, state police said there were no signs of foul play in the death of Labartino, who was taken to the prison’s infirmary Aug. 20.
The reason for the admittance to the infirmary wasn’t spelled out by police, who said only that Labartino “had recently been diagnosed with a serious medical condition and had a history of other debilitating medical disorders.”
Police said the Windsor County state’s attorney was notified of Labartino’s death along with the local medical examiner.
The detective sergeant handling the death investigation could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito said Thursday night he could add little more due to federal privacy laws regarding medical care.
“He came to us with health complications,” Pallito said. “This has been an ongoing issue since he came, so it was anticipated that he was going to have an episode at some point.”
What wasn’t expected was how quickly the Hubbardton man’s condition deteriorated Wednesday, he said.
Usually, inmates are taken first to Springfield Hospital and then Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, if their medical conditions worsen beyond the prison’s ability to treat them.
But in Labartino’s case, the commissioner said “the spiral was pretty quick.”
“He died inside the facility before we could take him to the hospital,” he said.
An autopsy was ordered for Labartino, whose death remains under investigation.
But based on what he knows of the situation, Pallito said, the death appeared to be from natural causes.
“In this particular case there’s nothing that looks suspicious,” he said. “If he was a younger guy in better health it would be a different situation.”
Labartino made reference to having serious heart and lung conditions in motions he filed on his own behalf in Rutland criminal court this spring and summer.
State police investigators say Labartino shot and killed the two electricians who had come to perform maintenance work at his rental home on Route 30 after a two-day dispute with them and his landlord, Bill Gilbert.
After the shooting, police said, Labartino walked into the woods two miles south of his home and left a rifle in the snow.
Court records said Labartino felt “threatened” by the workers and police said they were called to the house twice before the shooting. Gilbert told police Labartino was “hostile” and a gun owner.
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