A Nephew's Tribute to
Detective Donald LaConte

Detective Donald LaConte, who died on Feb. 8, 2000, played a key role in the Lafayette Grill murder investigation. He was the first person to hear Al Bello identify Rubin Carter as one of the killers. "You had the man and you let him go," Bello told LaConte before naming Carter. LaConte arranged for Bello to meet his superior, Capt. Robert Mohl, later that day, and Bello repeated his identification of Carter at the meeting. Eight days later, on Oct. 11, Bello gave a statement to Lt. Vincent DeSimone, and on Oct. 14, 1966, Carter and Artis were arrested.

LaConte was also the first to learn that Bradley was with Bello on the night of the murders, and he is one of three people who saw the .32 caliber bullet and the 12 gauge shotgun shell after they were found in Carter's car less than 90 minutes after the murders. LaConte was escorting eyewitness Pat Valentine through the police garage when Detective Emil DiRobbio held out his hand and said, "Look what I found." DiRobbio opened his hand to reveal the live rounds. LaConte testified about that incident at Carter's second trial.

On the night of LaConte's death, his nephew, Ray LaConte, a retired Paterson Police lieutenant, e-mailed this tribute to this web site. It is reprinted with his permission. (The photo is from 1978.)


Donald LaConte, my uncle, was one of the detectives involved in the Carter case. Don passed away today. I talked to him on Sunday and it hurt to see him sick and in pain.

It always bothered Don that there were people who believed that Carter was framed. He would never have allowed something like that to happen to anyone. I wish he could have known that many people still do care about the truth. Don was a wonderful, thorough and professional investigator and a terrific policeman. He always told me to do the job the right way -- honest and professional -- and I was fortunate and honored to have known him, learned from him and loved him.

Don loved good people and respected all people. Those who knew him loved him and knew of his honesty and his determination to find the truth in every case. He will be dearly missed. I wish I could have been half the policeman that he was.

My consolation is that the good people -- not black or white -- just good people who were involved in that case know the truth. And to those who want to sit in a theater and believe Hollywood fantasies -- that's their business. But the Don LaContes of the world will be loved and remembered long after the garbage still burns in hell.

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