Coworker Accused of Killing East Haven Woman

A Milford man has been charged with murder.

Police have arrested the coworker of an East Haven woman who was brutally stabbed on Tuesday and left in a drainage ditch near a beach in Rhode Island.

Antoinette Venditti Bruce, 35, was staying at the Residence Inn, at 325 West Main Road, in Middletown, Rhode Island, because she was temporarily assigned to the Christmas Tree Shop in the town.

It was in the parking lot of that hotel, police said, that she was killed and Zachary Lepelusa, 24, of Milford, has been charged with murder.

He and Bruce had worked together at one of the discount stores in Connecticut but there were work-related conflicts and Lepelusa was fired, according to Middletown, Rhode Island police.

Witnesses called police just before 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday to report that a woman had been stabbed in a car.

Before police arrived, the man drove off, with a woman inside the car. On Wednesday, said that Lepelusa tracked Bruce down to that motel.

“It was a tragic incident,” Middletown, R.I.. Police Chief Anthony Pesare told the Newport Daily News. “He (Lepelusa) came down from Connecticut to confront the victim.”

Police found Bruce's body after Detective Walter Mey, of Middletown Police, saw a car parked in the Third Beach Parking Lot. But, as he went toward the vehicle, the man sped away, parked on Third Beach Road and ran toward the Norman Bird Sanctuary.

Police took Lepelusa into custody and arrested him.

Soon, police found Bruce's body in a drainage ditch off Hanging Rock Road, near Second Beach.

Lepelusa was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. He was arraigned Wednesday in court in Newport.  Police are investigating and more charges against Lepelusa are possible.

An official from Christmas Tree Shops said the company is deeply saddened and their thoughts are with the victim's family, but they would not comment further or confirm that either Lepelusa or Bruce worked there.


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