Rescue workers tried in vain to save John Bapti's life after his throat was slashed in a confrontation with one man at the Rutland Shopping Plaza parking lot around 4:30 Thursday afternoon. Witnesses identified the slasher as Jonathan Bruno.
"He was identified immediately by witnesses at the scene. He had fled the scene on foot," says Sgt. Ray Lamoria of the Rutland Police Department.
Police say Bruno fled to nearby School Street, where he barged into the apartment of total strangers. They called the police. Bruno was arrested minutes later.
"He came into the house and said he had been jumped and he wanted to wash his hands and he was covered with blood," says Sgt. Lamoria.
Police say Bruno claimed it was self defense because Bapti attacked him with a pipe. But witnesses said Bruno attacked Bapti without provocation and police could find no sign of a pipe or any other weapon except Bruno's blood-stained knife under a car. Before Bruno was brought into the court room, police separated the families of the victim and suspect and issued a warning.
"If we have an outburst, one of the deputies will escort you out of the courtroom."
Under extremely heavy security, Bruno was delivered wearing a bullet-proof vest. His lawyer entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder on his behalf. Court records show the 23 year old Bruno has a lengthy criminal record. He was released from prison just six months ago after spending six of the last 10 years behind bars for a violent armed robbery that injured the victim. Two months ago his former girlfriend, reportedly pregnant with his child, obtained a relief from abuse order, claiming Bruno was a drug dealer and had threatened to kill her. Police say the motive in this case was Bapti's failure to pay a three-week-old debt, probably for drugs.
"According to the information that we have, the deceased owed money to Mr. Bruno," says Sgt. Lamoria. "I think it was 40 dollars."
Bruno was ordered held on bail set at $750,000. The victim's family and the suspect's family declined comment as they left the courthouse.
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