Warren man guilty on nine counts in drug-related murder
LITCHFIELD — A Warren man has been convicted on all nine counts related to a 2012 drug-related murder in Sharon.
After two days of deliberations, a jury on Thursday found Niraj Patel, 28, guilty of felony murder, conspiracy to commit home invasion and other related charges. Patel faces 200 years in prison and would not be eligible for parole until serving 85 percent of his sentence, according to the state’s attorney’s office. Patel, whose trial began last month, will be sentenced on April 15. He is being held without bond.
The charges stemmed from an Aug. 6, 2012 incident when Patel and two others have been accused of attempting to rob Lucas Vitalis, 24, of drug proceeds at the victim’s Sharon home.
Police found Vitalis’ mother, Rita, tied up in the kitchen and her son was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound.
Rita Vitalis told detectives two white men wearing dark gloves, knit caps and bandanas covering their faces entered the home, secured her hands and then went upstairs carrying a long silver-barreled handgun, police said.
Patel and Michael Calabrese, 29, both of Partridge Road in Warren, and Hiral Patel, 27, of Branford, were each charged with felony murder, home invasion, first-degree kidnapping with a firearm, first-degree robbery and hindering prosecution when they were arrested in September 2013.
Calabrese admitted to the shooting in a recorded conversation with another inmate, according to court documents. Calabrese told the inmate Vitalis attempted to attack him with a knife and he shot him during a scuffle, according to court documents.
Police believed Niraj Patel needed money for an attorney to defend him on drug charges stemming from a June 2012 motor vehicle stop in Torrington where police seized $12,000 in cash.
Police said he enlisted the help of his cousin, Hiral Patel, and a friend, Calabrese, to rob Vitalis, an associate who was a marijuana dealer.
One of several cell phones found in Vitalis’ bedroom contained multiple text messages, indicating Niraj Patel set up a drug deal moments before the home invasion on Aug. 6, 2012, according to court documents.
Shyam Patel, 28, of Partridge Road, was also arrested for the incident on tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution charges. He is free on $500,000 bond.