Second man pleads guilty in 2006 Hamlin homicide

The mother of homicide victim Anthony Hamlin has, as of Tuesday, heard two men admit to a judge that they pummeled her son until he died in a Ledyard field in January 2006.

Darlene Hamlin, who suffered for years with not knowing who killed her son, was in a New London courtroom Monday when Timothy P. Johnson, 33, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in connection with Hamlin's death. Johnson will be sentenced Sept. 19 to 19½ years in prison.

A month ago, Johnson's East Lyme High School classmate Christopher P. Vincenti pleaded guilty to the same charge. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 18 to 20 years in prison.

"Guilty," Johnson and Vincenti had both said when asked by the clerk how they were pleading.

"Yes," they both said when the judge asked them if they agreed with the facts of the case recited by the prosecutor.

Johnson will serve six fewer months because he cooperated after someone close to him called the Eastern District Major Crime Squad last September and identified Johnson and Vincenti as the killers.

Finally, Darlene Hamlin and her large extended family know who took "Ant" from them, but she said they still have many unanswered questions, such as why the two men returned to the crime scene on Shewville Road, perhaps more than once, after stripping off her son's clothing to avoid leaving forensic evidence behind and leaving him face-down in the field.

It is unclear if Johnson and Vincenti will speak at their sentencing hearings, which Judge Hillary B. Strackbein scheduled for two consecutive days so that Hamlin's siblings who live out of state can attend. Several of the victim's family members plan to speak that day of the impact of the brutal crime.

A 40-year-old father of five, Anthony Hamlin had worked as a surveyor's assistant. He loved a good cookout and other family gatherings. A member of the Eastern Pequots, he was disappointed, as were other members, when the federal government in 2005 overturned an earlier decision to grant federal recognition to the tribe. In January 2006, he decided to move south, where other relatives lived, and start anew, according to his family.

Hamlin was preparing to take the 11 p.m. train to Virginia, where he was about to start a new job, when a female friend dropped him off in downtown New London at 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2006, and gave him $140, according to court documents and family interviews.

Instead, he agreed to go to a strip club with Johnson and Vincenti, whom he met on the sidewalk outside a Bank Street bar. All three men had been drinking.

They drove in a gray Ford Ranger pickup truck, registered to Vincenti's father and later to Vincenti. They got lost and had stopped in the Ledyard field to urinate when Johnson decided to rob Hamlin so that he could buy drugs.

Johnson told his plan to Vincenti, who grabbed a piece of wood from inside the cab of the pickup. Johnson said the wood was about a foot long and rounded, like a rod in a coat closet. As they were all standing in the field, Johnson said he tried to punch Hamlin, but ended up falling on the ground. Hamlin was just standing there, Johnson said, and he said "Help" to Vincenti.

Vincenti hit Hamlin in the head about three times with the wood, Johnson said. Hamlin, who looked shocked, fell to the ground after the first strike. Johnson said he got up and helped Vincenti, "because he had helped me." Johnson said he punched Hamlin with a closed fist on the side of his face and kicked him in the crotch.

Hamlin, who was not moving and was bleeding from the head and face, had no pulse, according to Johnson. He said he removed Hamlin's clothes and sneakers.

Johnson said they decided to take Hamlin to the hospital and put him in the bed of the pickup truck. Johnson said he doesn't remember if he closed the tailgate or not as they drove out of the field, but that when they looked in the pickup truck, Hamlin was not there.

"I wasn't sure if he had came to and jumped out, or if he had fallen out," Johnson said.

The men drove to Johnson's home in Lebanon. They found $100 in Hamlin's wallet and drove in a different car to New London to buy opioid painkillers.

Vincenti's wallet was missing, so at daybreak, they drove back toward the Ledyard field, but the road was blocked off for the investigation, Johnson said.

The state was offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hamlin's killers. According to court documents, the unidentified informant told detectives he was not providing the information solely for the reward, but because it was the right thing to do and that the two men are dangerous people who were still walking around freely.

The witness said Johnson and Vincenti were good friends who had attended East Lyme High together, drank to get drunk almost daily and used drugs often, including marijuana and painkillers. He said that as teenagers, they and others "beat up a kid and hospitalized him."

k.florin@theday.com

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