Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Death Of A Homeless Man

In the summer of 2009 I was the fluff-piece writer for a local daily paper. Hardly anything I wrote there was worth adding to my professional clipfile or mentioning on this blog, with one exception: on a hot July afternoon, the staff photographer and I were trudging through downtown on our way back from covering another forgettable feelgood story when we chanced to speak with one of the homeless guys congregated near a bus stop, a man named Dennis Lorenzetti. I shared the story here because -- well, I don't know. Maybe for selfish reasons, professional pride in a rare story that actually mattered. Maybe for noble reasons, because I did and do firmly believe the purpose of the Fourth Estate is not to make the other three look good, but to give a voice to the voiceless. Maybe both, or something else entirely.

But it's a good thing I did, because that old blog post is apparently the only online mention of the man (save this one, of course). Now, fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I check my blog stats fairly regularly to see what sort of search terms bring new readers here; every day, dozens of no-doubt-disappointed people visit looking for Japanese tentacle porn or phone sex or similar topics. That's to be expected, but I was surprised to suddenly find several daily visitors searching for "Dennis Lorenzetti," and "Bristol" or "New Britain."

Then I got an e-mail last week from a journalist and former colleague bearing bitter news: Lorenzetti died last month. His body was found behind a low-rent supermarket where the homeless often huddle. Apparently there's disagreement regarding exactly what happened: his homeless friends say it was murder. The cops call it an accident, where he slipped and fell and that's why his head was smashed in. I can't claim to know all the details, and what little I do know is all second- or thirdhand information; I personally have verified nothing. But it seems the cops never bothered telling Lorenzetti's family, and his death never made the local papers because there was nobody to write and send an obituary.

In the past couple of days I have also received e-mails from people claiming to be relatives of Lorenzetti's; only now are they discovering what happened to him. Since I did not ask their permission, I lack the moral right to tell you who wrote me or what they said, but I can and will tell you this: I've been serving as an unofficial contact person this past week, putting friends and relatives of Lorenzetti in touch with the sole investigative journalist in the region with the time, resources and inclination to look into what happened. (I know a couple more gainfully employed journalists who, I suspect, would love to dig into and report what happened, but I doubt their employers will allow it. Can't run the risk of embarrassing well-paid, respectable public servants now, can we? Remember: government cock will not suck itself. That's what a free and independent media is for.) Lorenzetti clearly had some mental issues, and drank more alcohol than any person really should, but that doesn't mean he deserved to die unlamented and forgotten like a damned dog in the street.

If you are one of the people who found this blog after searching for Dennis Lorenzetti, feel free to e-mail me if you want to get in touch with the journalist pursuing this story. Or say something in the comment thread, if you'd prefer. I will give you his name and contact information, and send yours to him.

I wish I could do more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,I read your article online and was touched that anyone cared enough to write about my brother,remember...Dennis did indeed have a family and we were appalled by the situation at hand. I called the Medical examiners office the same night a reporter called to see if he could do a story about his death,I called to see if the story was true and it was. I also found out he was taken to St Francis Hospital alive and an hour later he had passed away. I just want the truth to be heard. The medical examiner said they THINK he died from Hypothermia. I heard that there were emt's that knew him from bristol and New Britain talking back and forth to each other the night it happened like some sort of big joke, I know he was identified before he was brought to the morge, everyone knew him but no one had enough respect to notify his siblings. He layed in that morge for over 1 month and if it wasn't for the reporter that called we would have never known. Yes he was ill but he wasn't always homeless and he was a human being. He will be buried with my parents. If a reporter could find us... why couldn't they? wish we knew the truth about how he died

12:30 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I have a few theories as to why nobody official could find you, but ... my theories don't reflect well on the local constabulary or leadership, so I'll skip them and say only that I'm sorry for your loss, but glad that I have at least, however inadvertently, been able to help that one local journalist and your family get in touch with each other.

That journalist is similar to how I was when I held investigative-journalism jobs: once he sinks his teeth into something, he won't let go until he's ready. If he cannot find answers, he will at least make the public aware of the questions.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article. I hope the journalist does not give up. I hope that at least some sort of story will be posted in a newspaper so this does not happen to someone else. Dennis could have been a model at one time in his life. He was very good looking blond hair blue eyed italian boy with plenty of girlfreinds. He unfortunately chose the road he pondered and we had to let him go.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We will find the truth. I'm sure by now local representatives and authorities are feeling the heat. They need to quickly come up with an explanation as to why the family was not informed by the local authorities and not forthcoming with information regarding the events leading to his death. There is a lot of speculation as to what happened that night. A lot of rights have been and continue to be violated and someone needs to be held accountable.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thier answer is " they don't know why" They have been very rude and closed mouth. One officer in general has absolutely no regard for human life, his response was so demeaning as if Dennis was just a piece of trash and just made this officers life miserable. I know personally... I carry tremendous guilt around with me every day just from little things such as sitting at my dining room table having the luxury of being able to have a cup of coffee at my leisure knowing that I had a brother that was freezing on the street at that exact moment.

4:56 AM  

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