Suspect in Waterbury courthouse shooting met killer before crime

Tory Keith, 34, of Meriden is the fourth person charged in connection with the murder of a Waterbury man in March, police said.

Waterbury Police Department

WATERBURY – The latest defendant in connection with a fatal shooting outside a Waterbury courthouse in March is suspected of waiting in the courthouse lobby until the victim arrived, then going outside and briefly speaking with a motorcyclist who subsequently shot the victim as he later left the courthouse, police said.

The police affidavit containing evidence against the fourth suspect to be charged – Tory Keith, 34, of Meriden – will be released from court records and will not be available to the public for 14 days.

But Waterbury Police Detective Fernando Lucas discussed the evidence against Keith in a previously released affidavit in the case of Nicholas Chiapponi, 26, of Glastonbury. Both men are charged in connection with the shooting death of Jarron Chapman, 26, of Waterbury, as he left the courthouse with his aunt at about 11:38 a.m. on March 21.

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Also charged in Chapman's killing are 29-year-old Dante Howell of Meriden, who is suspected of firing the fatal shot, and 21-year-old Deera Nelson of Meriden, who is suspected of driving Keith and Chiapponi to and from court and picking up Howell after the shooting in the Plantsville section of Southington, court records show.

The charges against all four suspects include murder, although court records show only Howell is suspected of shooting Chapman.

There are at least two legal principles by which a person who did not commit a crime can be held legally responsible for it. One requires proof that the suspect assisted or encouraged someone else to commit the crime, while the other requires proof that the suspect was involved in the crime.

Online court records show Howell and Keith are being held on $5 million bail each, while Nelson and Chiapponi are being held on $3 million bail each. Nelson has pleaded not guilty, but the others have not yet entered pleas, according to the records.

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No attorney was listed for Keith in online court records Friday. Attempts to reach attorneys for the other three defendants on Friday were initially unsuccessful.

Identified by a photo

A state Department of Motor Vehicles photo of Keith “appears to be similar” to the man seen on courthouse surveillance video approaching the motorcyclist – who police believe to be Howell – shortly after Chapman entered the courthouse, Lucas wrote in his affidavit in the Chiapponi case.

Earlier surveillance video showed the man police believe to be Keith getting out of a Nissan Sentra and entering the courthouse. A short time later, he was followed by a man in a pink shirt, who investigators said was Chiapponi. The two men waited separately in the courthouse lobby until Chapman came in, according to investigators' description of the video.

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About a minute after the man believed to be Keith got out and spoke to the motorcyclist, the man believed to be Chiapponi also got out of the car and the two met up and got back into the Sentra, the detective said.

This video evidence “further confirms that the occupants of the Nissan Sentra colluded with the shooting suspect on the motorcycle,” the detective wrote.

After the shooting, Waterbury police contacted police in surrounding cities, and Southington police reported that surveillance cameras in their city captured images of a motorcycle and driver matching the description of those involved in the shooting, the detective said.

Waterbury and Southington police checked the area and found a similar motorcycle behind a home on Main Street in the Plantsville neighborhood, the detective reported.

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A later review of video surveillance from that area showed that about four minutes before the Sentra stopped in front of the house, a motorcycle pulled into the driveway of the house and that someone appeared to have climbed into the back seat of the motorcycle, the detective said.

Keith's address was an apartment on Colony Place in Meriden, the detective reported. He said surveillance video showed both the motorcycle and the Sentra driving toward that residence on the morning of March 21, before the shooting, and that the Sentra returned to the area shortly after 12:30 p.m., less than an hour after the shooting.

Arrested without pants

The affidavit in the Chiapponi case reveals previously undisclosed information about the case against Howell, the alleged shooter.

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Howell was arrested on April 10 when a detective found him sitting on a railing on Route 66 in Middlefield with no pants or shoes on next to a car that had run out of gas, Lucas said. A subsequent search of nearby woods turned up a pair of sweatpants and a car key in one pocket and $15,970 in cash in the other, the detective said.

The investigator later cited a confidential source who said Howell said he would get $15,000 for something he would do on March 21, the day of the shooting. The witness, whose gender and other identifying details are not disclosed in the affidavit, also said Howell stole money and a car from the witness, according to the investigator.

Lucas' affidavit in the Nelson case also cites someone making comments in a recorded phone conversation with a prison inmate that a motorcyclist had been paid to carry out the shooting.

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The confidential source described a long FaceTime video call with a woman about Howell “and where he might be,” the investigator reported. About 10 hours later, the witness said, she received a call from “Nick,” later identified as Chiapponi through a photo presentation. He was upset about the FaceTime call and said the witness was “going to get them all caught,” the investigator reported.