Former Norwich resident arraigned in 2006 killing

Gregory Smith is charged in connection with the June 2006 murder of Sean Hill during arraignment proceedings in Norwich Superior Court Tuesday.
Gregory Smith is charged in connection with the June 2006 murder of Sean Hill during arraignment proceedings in Norwich Superior Court Tuesday. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

Four years after 19-year-old Sean Hill was gunned down in Norwich, a local man was arraigned Tuesday in Norwich Superior Court in connection with the slaying.

Gregory Smith, 28, formerly of Norwich, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence in connection with a robbery that happened prior to Hill's murder, was charged with felony murder.

An arrest warrant has also been prepared for Bruce Gathers, 30, who is serving time in a New Jersey prison in an unrelated case.

Gathers is expected to be charged with felony murder, murder and criminal use of a firearm. He has yet to be served with an arrest warrant. Police did not say when Gathers would be formally charged.

During Tuesday's brief court hearing, Gregory Smith stood silent as he listened to a bail commissioner recite his extensive criminal background, which includes arrests for another robbery, assault, larceny and possession of narcotics.

Richard Hill III said his family was "ecstatic" about Smith's arraignment.

"It feels good to have this happen and get to get some justice," Hill said.

The arrests were the result of an investigation conducted by Norwich police and the Southeastern Connecticut Cold Case Unit.

According to police, Justin Smith, 29, of 139 Boswell Ave., Norwich, left Hill and a woman waiting in a driveway on June 2, 2006, while he walked to a nearby apartment building for a drug deal.

Gathers and Gregory Smith allegedly robbed and pistol-whipped Justin Smith and chased him out of the building.

Just minutes after midnight on June 3, a witness told police there was the sound of a gunshot. Police arrived on the scene to find Hill lying in the driveway with a gunshot wound in his side.

In November 2006, Gathers was in New Jersey, where police said he had assumed a new identity and had been arrested in connection with a burglary. When New Jersey police fingerprinted him, they learned his true identity. He was sentenced to four years in prison in 2008 for his role in the Norwich robbery.

The court kept Smith's bond at $1 million and transferred his case to Superior Court on Huntington Street in New London, where more serious cases are heard, for Sept. 13.

The bond set on Gathers' warrant is $1.5 million. The warrants in the case remain sealed.

Since its inception in October 2009, the Southeastern Connecticut Cold Case Unit has made two other arrests in cases dating to 1993 and 1997.

In May the unit charged Irene Reynolds with fatally beating and strangling her mother, Bertha Reynolds, whose body was found at her home at 84 Laurel Hill Ave., Norwich, on July 19, 1993.

One month later, the unit charged 40-year-old Dickie Anderson Jr. with killing Renee Pellegrino on June 25, 1997. Pellegrino's body was discovered in a cul-de-sac off Waterford Parkway South.

i.larrañeta@theday.com

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