BOSTON — Following one final carjacking in Vermont, a Massachusetts man confessed Wednesday to a killing and robbery rampage that left three men dead in two states.
According to Vermont state police, 41-year-old Gary L. Sampson of Abington, Mass., admitted to taking the lives of a retiree and college student in Massachusetts and a former city councilor from Concord, N.H.
The five-day crime spree stunned a region where lethal violence is rare.
"No question about it, three random acts of violence against three innocent victims," Plymouth County Dist. Atty. Michael Sullivan said Wednesday.
Police Chief Gordon Fogg said at a news conference that the small town of Kingston, Mass., was "devastated" by the murder of 19-year-old Jonathan Rizzo.
After finishing his shift waiting tables at a seafood restaurant in the Massachusetts town of Plymouth last Friday, the George Washington University sophomore was headed home to nearby Kingston for a pool party. His car was discovered Sunday night outside a lakeside home in New Hampshire.
The body of 58-year-old Robert Whitney was found Monday, bound and gagged inside the home. The Concord civic leader had been watching the Lake Winnipesaukee residence for a friend.
As Rizzo's family prepared for a prayer service Tuesday night, his body was discovered in a wooded glen in Abington. Sampson apparently guided authorities to the site where the teenager's body was found tied to a tree. He had multiple stab wounds. A priest made the announcement to friends and family members as the Mass ended.
"The emotions here are all over the place," Father Joe Mozer of Kingston said Wednesday.
Police say the string of killings probably began last week, when 69-year-old Philip McCloskey of Taunton, Mass., was found stabbed to death in Marshfield, which borders Kingston on Boston's South Shore. McCloskey had been missing for two days when his body was located Thursday.
Because he showed signs of early Alzheimer's disease, authorities at first suspected McCloskey had wandered off on his own. When his wallet, ring, watch, cell phone and keys were found to be missing, they concluded he was a victim of a robbery gone bad. Sampson told Vermont police that he killed McCloskey.
Officials could find no immediate link between the three victims.
But they have pieced together a scenario that showed Sampson robbing and killing McCloskey, then choosing Rizzo as his next victim. Driving Rizzo's blue Jetta, Sampson fled to a community in New Hampshire where he had recently lived. Authorities speculate that the third victim, Whitney, surprised Sampson when he arrived at the lakeside home to do yard work.
Driving Whitney's gold Saturn, law enforcement officials said, Sampson headed to Vermont. He abandoned the car and was hitchhiking Tuesday in Woodstock, Vt., when William Gregory offered him a ride. Sampson pulled a knife and ordered Gregory to leave the highway. Instead, Gregory stopped the car and jumped out.
Sampson was captured shortly afterward when, authorities said, he broke into a nearby home, tripping the burglar alarm.
"State police went down there and swarmed him and got him," said Jerome Doherty of the Woodstock Correctional Center, where Sampson was being held.
Officials in New Hampshire and Massachusetts were expected to bring charges against Sampson after his Vermont arraignment. Sampson also could be charged with federal carjacking, a capital offense.
He also is wanted in North Carolina for at least five bank robberies.
On Wednesday, the Weathervane restaurant in Plymouth was closed while employees struggled to cope with the death of Rizzo, a former Little League star.
"You hear it over and over again, 'It doesn't happen to us,' " said Sarah Parquette, a former co-worker. "Well, it does."