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Feds: Two Indicted for Arson in Death of Branford Woman

Steven Martone, of North Branford, and John Vailette are accused of lighting a fire that led to the death of Kathy Hardy in March 2006.

Feds: Two Indicted for Arson in Death of Branford Woman
Eight years after a fatal fire killed Branford resident Kathy Hardy, two men have been indicted in lighting the blaze that killed the mother of three.

A federal grand jury in New Haven has returned an indictment charging John Vailette, also known as “John John” and “Snagglepuss,” 42, and Steven Martone, also known as “Crash,” 45, with committing an arson in March 2006 that led to Hardy's death, according to the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

The indictment, which is shared above, was returned on March 26.

'Together, We Seek Justice'

Tom Carson, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Martone was arrested Friday morning at his home in North Branford. 

He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford and is detained pending a hearing that is scheduled for April 2.  

Vailette is currently incarcerated in federal prison.

“These two defendants are charged with setting the fire that killed Kathy Hardy, a mother of three, in 2006,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly. “This lengthy, complex and ongoing investigation is being conducted with great care and professionalism by dedicated members of the FBI and Branford Police Department, with the assistance of state and local fire investigators. I want to thank them and our state partners from the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office for their diligence and excellent work in this ongoing investigation. Together, we seek justice for Ms. Hardy, her family and loved ones.”

Fatal Fire March 2006

According to Carson, as alleged in the indictment, 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.  

Death Classified As Homicide

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.

Truck Leads to Suspects

The indictment alleges that 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 and jewelry that belonged to Kathy Hardy.  

The indictment also alleges that, after the fire, both Vailette and Martone made incriminating statements to other individuals.

'A Callous and Horrific Crime'

FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick stated in a press release that he would like to thank the work of the Branford Police and fire departments — as well as the Connecticut State Police: Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit — "for their perseverance in securing an indictment and for their steadfast commitment to the rest of the judicial process.”

“This was a callous and horrific crime,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick. “That the dedicated investigators never relented in their pursuit of justice is a tribute to them and their respective agencies. 

Branford Police Chief Halloran also thanked the team of investigators for their work on the case . 

“The scope of this investigation would have been impossible 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," Halloran said.

He added that "the horrific death of Kathy Hardy" and "arduous investigation has been at the forefront of Branford Police Department for the past eight years."

Lifetime In Prison or Death Penalty 

If convicted of the charge of committing an arson resulting in death, Vailette and Martone face up to a lifetime term of imprisonment, or death, should the government pursue the death penalty in this matter.

U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  

Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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.

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