Saturday, April 8, 2017

Slow Saturday Flashback: Orange Invasion

"Elderly man killed in Orange home invasion identified" by Travis Andersen and Olivia Quintana Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent  October 07, 2016

Authorities on Friday identified the 95-year-old Orange man who was killed Wednesday night during an apparent home invasion, and they said his car was stolen after the slaying.

Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan’s office said in a statement that Thomas Harty was killed inside his home on East River Street. The attack also seriously injured Harty’s wife, 77-year-old Joanna Fisher, who uses a wheelchair.

In addition, the statement said, the couple’s grayish silver 2003 Toyota Corolla station wagon with license plate number M99949 was stolen.

Mary Carey, a spokeswoman for Sullivan, said late Friday afternoon that she had no information on a possible suspect description.

Prosecutors did not say how Harty was killed, but they said the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine his cause of death.

A neighbor who declined to give her name said Friday in a phone interview that she was stunned to learn of the violence against two popular neighbors.

“They’re very well liked people in the neighborhood,” the woman said. “They’re very friendly. “

She said Harty’s family owns a tool business. He used canes when he walked, but remained an avid outdoorsman, even traversing the Grand Canyon in recent years.

“He has hiked several different places,” she said.

The woman added that the close-knit neighborhood remained on edge Friday, knowing that whoever killed Harty was still at large.

“All the neighborhood has been talking about, ‘I’m locking my doors tonight,’ ” she said.

Orange police said Thursday that they are committed to keeping residents safe.

“Rest assured that the safety of our citizens is our top priority,” police said. “What can you do? Hug your loved ones, and pray for the families involved in this tragedy. Now is not the time to gossip, or assume things. We are better than that. Now is the time for compassion.”

Sullivan’s office urged anyone with information about the case to contact the Orange Police Department....


Also see:

Two arrested in Orange home invasion, homicide

Pair charged in Orange killing could be back in Mass. this week

Suspects in Orange murder are being extradited to Mass.

"2 arraigned in Orange home invasion, killing" by Laura Crimaldi Globe Staff  October 14, 2016

ORANGE — Joshua Hart and Brittany Smith were in trouble and looking to get out of town. They needed a getaway car, an older model that couldn’t be tracked.

The couple broke into a home garage, where a 2003 station wagon was parked. But they didn’t stop there, prosecutors said Friday.

Hart, 23, and Smith, 27, allegedly went on a two-hour rampage that left a 95-year-old World War II veteran dead and his 77-year-old wife severely wounded in their Orange home.

In court records, prosecutors described a vicious attack in which Thomas Harty was stabbed with a knife and suffocated with a pillow, while Joanna Fisher was knocked from her wheelchair and her throat was cut.

“This was a prolonged and horrific home invasion,” Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said at a news conference Friday. “It left a very kind, generous gentleman, Thomas Harty, murdered brutally at the scene, and his wife, Joanna Fisher, severely injured.”

Hart and Smith, both of Athol, were arraigned Friday on murder charges in Orange District Court, nearly a week after they were arrested in a Walmart parking lot in Rockbridge County, Va., where authorities said they fled after the attack.

Not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf, and they were ordered held without bail.

“It is without a doubt that this crime was senseless,” Sullivan said.

While speaking with investigators, Hart admitted to killing Harty while Smith confessed to working with her boyfriend to try to kill Fisher, according to court records.

The Oct. 5 attack began around 7:30 p.m., while Harty and Fisher were watching television, prosecutors said.

Hart and Smith entered the couple’s home on East River Street through the garage and immediately set upon them, authorities said. During the struggle, Smith asked Hart to help her suffocate Fisher, they said.

After the assaults, Smith and Hart remained in the home and stole credit and debit cards and keys to the couple’s Toyota Corolla station wagon, which they used to flee.

“They were looking for an older model vehicle without a tracking device inside of it so they could make good on their escape,” said Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Bucci. “They hoped they could recover some money to help them escape.”

Just hours later, the couple visited a Walmart in the Worcester area, where they made a purchase with Fisher’s debit card, court papers said.

Security footage showed the couple in the store and captured a vehicle similar to the stolen station wagon, officials said.

After Hart and Smith left, Fisher tried to call for help, but learned her attackers disabled the phone and stole Harty’s cellphone, court papers say.

Home health care workers who came to the house for a regularly scheduled visit the next morning discovered what happened and called the police, records show.

Fisher was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, officials said.

The alleged rampage was set in motion a few days earlier, when Hart and Smith were arrested for unrelated crimes, authorities said.

On Oct. 2, Smith stole a 2006 Chevrolet Aveo from her 93-year-old great-grandmother, then dumped the car in Gardner after learning authorities had been notified, according to polilce.

Police arrested the couple the next day. Smith was charged with larceny of a motor vehicle and Hart was charged with being an accessory after the fact, court records show.

Both worried the case would land them in jail, Bucci said. Smith also feared the courts would order her into drug treatment, he said. Court papers said she is a heroin user.

Orange Police Chief Craig Lundgren said the home invasion and killing have left the town shaken.

“It’s been devastating for the small town of Orange. Everyone’s worried. Everyone knows everybody else. These poor victims, I’ve known my entire life,” he said. “You want to go home at night thinking that things like this don’t happen in a small community, but they do.” 

It's only a few towns over.

George Roix, a retired probation officer who knew the victims, said Harty and Fisher were “really good people.”

“When you heard it was them, it was crushing for all us in Athol, Orange,” he said.

Harty was a hiker who completed the Appalachian Trail and recently climbed Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, said his brother, John. He was planning to visit the Grand Canyon this week, he said.

“There are no words,” John Harty said. “It’s hard to believe that anything like this could happen.”


Also seeSecond victim of home invasion in Orange dies

Now it's a double murder then.