Federal Jury Finds Man Guilty of Causing Arson Death of Branford Woman in 2006
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane, Patricia M. Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Branford Police Chief Kevin Halloran today announced that a federal jury in Hartford has found JOHN VAILETTE, also known as “John John” and “Snagglepuss,” 44, guilty of committing an arson in Branford in 2006 that caused the death Kathy Hardy. The trial before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny began on September 10 and the jury returned the verdict after approximately three days of deliberations.
Judge Chatigny scheduled sentencing for December 23, 2015, at which time VAILETTE faces a maximum term of imprisonment of life. VAILETTE has been in federal custody since 2007, and recently completed a 10-year sentence for distributing crack cocaine.
According to the evidence at trial, at approximately 8:45 a.m. on the morning of March 7, 2006, the Branford Emergency Communications Center received 911 calls reporting a fire at 27 Little Bay Lane in Branford, a single-family home rented by Kathy Hardy. After members of the Branford Fire Department arrived at the scene and extinguished the fire, firefighters located the body of Kathy Hardy, 39, on the second floor of the residence. Fire Department investigators ultimately determined that the fire was initiated by accelerants located in the first floor living room area and on the staircase leading to the second floor of the dwelling. An autopsy performed on Kathy Hardy concluded that the cause of death was smoke inhalation, and her death was classified as a homicide.
Approximately two days after the fire, investigators located a truck regularly used by VAILETTE, which had been hidden in New Haven for a period of time in the aftermath of the fire. The truck, which was found at the home of another close associate of VAILETTE’s, contained a silver serving platter, two watches and rosary beads that belonged to Kathy Hardy.
One trial witness testified that VAILETTE called her hours after the fire and asked her to deliver a change of clothes to his place of work. Other witnesses testified that, after the fire, VAILETTE made incriminating statements.
“John Vailette committed a heartless and cowardly crime—setting fire to a woman’s home,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “That fire killed Kathy Hardy and took her from her three children, her parents, her siblings and many loved ones. This was a difficult case and I thank the jury for its thoughtful consideration of the evidence. I also want to thank the trial team, the prosecutors from our office and the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, and the investigators from the FBI, the Branford Police and Fire Departments, and the Connecticut State Police for their tremendous work on this case. Many of these dedicated investigators worked tirelessly on this matter for years. Justice has been served.”
Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane commended the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that collaborated on the investigation and subsequent prosecution. “This case is a perfect example of the benefits of teamwork and cooperation among federal, state, and municipal officials. Kathy Hardy’s family tirelessly advocated to fund the Cold Case Bureau in the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office. I hope that this verdict can bring some small measure of comfort as they continue to grieve for their loved one.”
“Today’s guilty verdict will hopefully provide some closure to Kathleen Hardy’s family,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick. “Thanks to the dedication of the investigators in this case, specifically the Branford Police Department and the Connecticut State Police, as well as the Branford Fire Department and the FBI special agents, Mr. Vailette’s crime will not go unpunished.”
“I am pleased with the jury’s guilty verdict of John Vailette in the arson murder of Kathy Hardy,” stated Branford Police Chief Halloran. “This case was never put on the back shelf from the day of the incident. Without the support of the New Haven office of the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney’s Office, Branford Fire Department and other local, state and federal agencies involved in the investigation, we may not have had the same outcome. I hope this verdict provides some sense of closure to the family.”
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Branford Police Department and the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, with the assistance of the Connecticut State Police, Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit and the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John H. Durham and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael A. Gailor and Kevin M. Shay.