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.