Hamlin family members get first look at suspect in 2006 homicide

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The family of homicide victim Anthony Hamlin took a first look Friday at the man accused of killing the 40-year-old father of five when Timothy P. Johnson was arraigned in New London Superior Court on a charge of felony murder.

Johnson, 32, of 495 Laurel Hill Road, Norwich, cooperated with the cold case investigation in recent days, providing a statement to detectives from the state police Eastern District Major Crime Squad at the Troop E barracks in Montville, according to testimony in court. The detectives allowed him to leave the barracks while they prepared a warrant for his arrest, and he turned himself in again.

A slight man with only one prior conviction, for third-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment in 2001, Johnson did not look toward Hamlin's family members, who filled a row of benches in the front of a courtroom on Broad Street in New London.

He stood with his attorney, Bruce McIntyre, bowed his head and nodded in response to a series of questions posed by Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed.

He is charged with felony murder, which indicates that Hamlin was killed during the course of another crime. Johnson will not enter a plea in the case until it is determined whether or not he will have a probable cause hearing. Under state law, he is entitled to such a hearing within 60 days of his arrest.

The judge kept the bond at $1 million and continued the case to Oct. 18. Johnson next will appear in the major crimes court, known as Part A, where Senior Assistant State's Attorney David J. Smith will be prosecuting.

Johnson is unknown to Hamlin's family members, who said they still have many questions. Additional arrests are anticipated, and the family will have to wait a little longer for answers. The warrant, which was signed Thursday by Superior Court Judge Kevin P. McMahon, will be sealed for at least 14 days.

Hamlin's body was discovered in a field adjacent to 448 Shewville Road in Ledyard. He died from blunt force trauma to the head, and his killer or killers had left him face down and naked in a former horse pasture.

Hamlin was last seen near Union Station in downtown New London on Jan. 27, 2006. He had accepted a job as a surveyor's assistant in Virginia and was planning to leave on the 11 p.m. train.

Hamlin's parents could not attend Friday's arraignment. His mother, Darlene Hamlin, is living in New Jersey but said she is grateful for detectives' work on the case and that she plans to attend future court dates. She had participated in the Survivors of Homicide support group for several years and said she never gave up hope that her son's killers would be found.

His father, John Norman, is living in an elderly housing facility in the region. Family members said he cried when they told him of the arrest on Thursday.

Hamlin's daughter, Bethany Hamlin, said the arrest has opened up a lot of wounds but is also a relief. Now, she said, the family wants answers.

"We just want a little closure," she said. "We all want to know why. We want to know what happened."

The victim's brother, John Norman, who family members say looks just like "Ant," said it was "kind of bittersweet" to learn of the arrest.

"It's not going to bring him back, but we'll finally get some answers," Norman said.

He said it was amazing to think that Johnson was only 21 years old when he allegedly took part in what has been described as a brutal crime.

Johnson has lived in Connecticut his whole life and was working up until about a week ago, according to Bail Commissioner Timothy Gilman.

Though they have yet to learn who else was involved in Hamlin's death, several family members said, "It was not who we thought it was."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2014 offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrests and conviction of Hamlin's killers, and the state police have collaborated with local and federal agencies during the investigation.

k.florin@theday.com 

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