Could justice be coming in Vt. cold case? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Could justice be coming in Vt. cold case?

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Will a son's quest for answers finally end a Vermont murder mystery? Forty years ago, Robert Fisher died from a brutal beating outside a Newport bar. No one was ever charged with the crime. But our Jennifer Costa found out it may not be too late for justice.

"It's possible that the person who is responsible for this is still alive," Orleans County State's Attorney Jennifer Barrett said.

It's Barrett's job to prosecute crimes in Orleans County. When she became the state's attorney, she asked local police departments to bring her cold cases.

"Newport gave me the Robert Fisher file," Barrett said.

The Vietnam vet recently back from war was murdered during a barroom brawl back in 1976.

"I cannot believe that someone has not been charged with this," said Pierre Capron, Fisher's son.

Barrett's fresh set of eyes is exactly the kind of help Capron has been searching for. He is the son Fisher left behind. Capron was a toddler when his father was murdered. The unsolved homicide has haunted him ever since.

"I was self-destructive. I didn't care about others. I got in trouble with the law. I did a bunch of things that were counterproductive. I didn't find any self-worth. I didn't have any self-esteem," Capron said.

For years, he vowed to avenge his father's death. Now, he just wants answers and to learn more about the man who was supposed to raise him.

"I don't know enough, as painful as it is," he said. "You ask yourself why?"

"On the investigative side, it's interesting, you know, trying to piece together a case that happened 40 years ago," said Sgt. Travis Bingham of the Newport Police Department.

Bingham is one of the officers helping Barrett review the case. Here's what he knows about Nov. 30, 1976.

"Some type of altercation that took place at a local bar," Bingham said. "From there are the pieces of the puzzle that were trying to put together. What happened after he left the bar? Was there another altercation? We don't know."

The bar was a divey joint called Gantry's. Dozens of patrons saw the fight. Police interviewed them but apparently no one saw anything that led to an arrest.

"The culture toward Vietnam veterans with PTSD, with substance abuse issues was different," Capron said. "I get the feeling, whether it's just or not, that it was just swept under the rug as a problem solved."

That's where the story takes a twist. Fisher didn't die outside the bar. He ended up a few blocks away at an apartment on Third Street. According to old newspaper clippings, it was Lynn Berrick's place. Her relationship to Fisher is fuzzy. An old friend told me Fisher came to Berrick's door bloodied and one of her children let him in. Another friend says Berrick called him the next day for help. He asked to remain anonymous, still fearing what he knows could endanger his life.

"I was just shocked," he said. "I saw him in the bathtub bleeding all over the place and not conscious. So I dialed 911 and said, 'Hey, what the heck is going on here? Who did all of this?' There weren't really any answers."

Fisher died a week after his mysterious beating. We dug up his death certificate. It's still unclear if a weapon was used, but the medical examiner concluded his death was a homicide caused by brain edema from lacerations to the right temporal lobe. Basically, his skull was bashed and his brain swelled.

"We're talking 1976," Fisher's friend said. "There were still a lot of Vietnam vets that were pretty fresh and coming back and so there were a lot of violent people."

But who did it and why are what this team will have to figure out if they want to bring charges. A lot has changed in Newport since 1976. For starters, the bar, Gantry's, is not even here anymore. It was knocked down years ago for residential homes.

"There is a list of witnesses in this case that is long," Bingham said. "Trying to figure out tracking them down. Is this person still alive? Do they still live in Newport?"

And if these witnesses aren't dead, are their memories strong enough to hold up in court?

Then there's the 40-year-old evidence.

"I don't even know what this thing is called," Bingham said. "It's some kind of magnetic recording tape."

Hurdles Barrett believes they can clear if it means cracking the case.

"There's still a family who has never seen justice for the person who is responsible for taking the life of their loved one," she said. "It is as important to me as the current homicide cases we have."

Newport Police and the county prosecutor want to hear from anyone who may have information about this case. They're specifically looking for people who were at Gantry's bar that night who might know something they didn't tell investigators back in 1976.

And Pierre Capron wants to hear from anyone who has photos or stories about his dad or more details about his military service.

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