[Back to Interviews & Articles]

Suspect Named in '81 Murder of Darien Officer
By Christina S. N. Lewis
Stamford Advocate Staff Writer
April 26, 2004

The department decided to violate its policy on open investigations and reveal the suspect's name after learning that a column describing Sabato's alleged involvement had been published in The Connecticut Law Tribune three years ago.


DARIEN -- Police have confirmed the name of a suspect in the unsolved murder of Darien police officer Kenneth Bateman Jr., who was gunned down behind the town's Duchess Patio Restaurant nearly 23 years ago.

The suspect is Anthony Sabato, 46, a former Stamford resident serving a 69-month sentence in federal prison for purchasing 29 stolen firearms.

"His name always seems to come around," said Darien police Sgt. George Vitone, lead investigator in the case. "He has always been considered a suspect."

The department decided to violate its policy on open investigations and reveal the suspect's name after learning that a column describing Sabato's alleged involvement had been published in The Connecticut Law Tribune three years ago.

Investigators said they hope that former associates of Sabato will come forward because he is in prison and cannot intimidate them.

Some who knew Sabato in the 1980s "live in fear of him to this day," said Vitone, who recalls interviewing a former associate who trembled when police said Sabato's name.

Bateman, 34, was shot to death when he interrupted a burglary at the eatery on the Post Road at 3:30 a.m. May 31, 1981. It is believed to be the only unsolved murder of a police officer in Connecticut.

Over the years, state and Darien police and the FBI have crisscrossed the country conducting interviews about the murder of Bateman, who had been a police officer in Darien for 712 years. Notes on the case fill eight file cabinet drawers, and posters offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to a conviction still are fixed to the walls at several police headquarters. But police say there is not enough evidence for an arrest.

Darien police said Sabato is not the only suspect but his was the only name released. His suspected role is an open secret among law enforcement officers.

Police say Sabato was committing commercial burglaries in lower Fairfield County and was in the area at the time of the homicide. He also fits the description given by two witnesses who saw a heavy-set white male with brown hair fleeing the scene, police say.

Sabato is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighed 275 pounds at the time of the murder, according to arrest records.

But the .38-caliber slug retrieved from Bateman's body has never been linked to a weapon, and state laboratory examinations failed to find traces of DNA on any of the evidence.

The suspects left burglary tools and $2,000 near the scene, Vitone said. He declined to provide details about other evidence.

Police say there were rumors that Sabato told his girlfriend and two of her relatives that he killed a police officer, but they never were verified. Killing a cop is a badge of honor among criminals, Vitone said, and investigators found several men who took credit for the crime "to look meaner and tougher than the next guy."

Sabato had been scheduled to be released March 7, 2008. But last week he pleaded guilty to federal gambling charges that will add to his time in prison, according to authorities. Details on the plea and sentencing were not available from federal authorities last week.

Sabato's criminal record dates to 1975. In the 1980s, Sabato also served time for assault, forgery, burglary and drug trafficking.

In 1983, Sabato reportedly ran over a Monroe man with his car, breaking his leg, according to Vitone. The victim reportedly was a hit man sent by a rival criminal organization to teach Sabato a lesson, Vitone said. The hit man sued Sabato over the assault, Vitone said, and the case was settled out of court.

On the early morning of the murder, Bateman was patrolling alone and responded to a silent alarm at the Duchess restaurant at 360 Post Road. He walked to the side of the building and surprised the suspect, who broke out through a door on the far side and started shooting.

Lt. Walter Victor Ponichtera found Bateman unconscious when he arrived minutes later. Bateman never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at Norwalk Hospital about 90 minutes later.

Police say they believe the burglars -- there were at least two -- fled to their car, which was parked at a nearby rest stop on the northbound side of Interstate 95. A state police bloodhound traced them there but then the trail went cold.

The investigation cast a wide net, but after about two years, then-Chief John Jordan told The Advocate that police had no leads or suspects despite a $20,000 reward that was boosted first to $50,000, then to $100,000.

In 1999, the department reactivated the case and for 14 months a task force of FBI officials and state and Darien police worked on it exclusively, hoping that time had persuaded someone to reveal information.

But since 1981, several "persons of interest" who might have knowledge of the case or Sabato's actions have died, Vitone said, one from a drug overdose, two of cancer and one who was accidentally shot.

Bateman's wife, Barbara, now 56, a teacher in the Stamford school system, moved recently and could not be reached for comment.

The Darien Police Department continues to remember Kenneth Bateman even though only four members of the force remain who worked with him.

Every Memorial Day, it commissions a floral display in his honor, said Chief Hugh McManus, a lieutenant at the time. Each year, scholarships in his name are awarded to the children of Darien police officers. A plaque with his likeness hangs in the lobby at police headquarters.

Hecker Avenue, the address of police headquarters, was renamed Kenneth E Bateman Jr. Way in 2001. Those who knew Bateman remember a man who loved challenging himself outdoors by skiing or hunting sharks off Montauk Point.

"No one needs to remind me that the case has not been solved," McManus said. "But I know we've done everything humanly possible to solve the case." Copyright 2004, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.


Bateman Killer Still Walks
January 8, 2001

   A key figure in the murder of Darien police officer Kenneth Bateman has escaped many close calls over the years, but Chief Hugh McManus remains confident that the case will be solved.

   It is the only unsolved killing of a Connecticut police officer in more than 50 years.

   Bateman, 34, fired six shots at his assailants after taking a bullet in the throat on Memorial Day, 1981. Two witnesses reported seeing a heavyset man running away.

   The lucky man, call him Anthony, is described by associates as short, hefty and a would-be tough guy who hangs out with real tough guys.

   Back in the days of wide-open, illegal gambling in Fairfield County, Anthony spent part of his time sticking up card games and rolling bagmen. In one game on East Main Street in Stamford, the take for Anthony was in the neighborhood of $86,000. This was not appreciated by the overseers of the card games, in particular Frank Piccolo of Bridgeport, a captain in the Gambino crime family.

   Piccolo dispatched one of his enforcers, Jimmy Mondo, to teach Anthony a lesson. Mondo made the mistake of walking in front of Anthony's car. A construction worker told patrol officers that a man had been run over and suffered a broken leg. He even gave police the license plate of the offending vehicle.

   Stunned, patrol officers asked the man how he got the license number. A cop gave it to him, the man said, and immediately ran away from the crime scene because he knew who was involved.

   Anthony's father, who had friends in New York, paid the debt and all was forgotten, if not forgiven. We're not sure how Mondo fared after the broken leg and botched assignment.

   Within days of the Bateman killing, Anthony told his girl friend and at least two of her relatives: "The job went sour. I had to kill a cop." Darien police were made aware of the details.

   Others in Anthony's loosely-knit crew included a guy named "Pete the Weasel" and a man considered the weak link who was found dead by a dumpster on Stamford's East Side. A fourth man, feared as a legitimate tough guy, was believed to have been the driver.

   When not at a job, Anthony and Co. would spend time at a Stamford bar called Sea Beach where they would openly discuss some of their activities.

   Darien and state police found burglar tools and $2,000 that was stolen and dropped as the burglars fled the Duchess, a fast food spot on the Post Road near Interstate-95 on May 30, 1981.

   State troopers assisted Darien police again in 1999, but the case still needs a break.

   "We need the necessary amount of evidence to obtain an arrest warrant and gain a conviction," Chief McManus told The Law Tribune during an interview on Christmas weekend. "Kenny was an outstanding officer with a promising future. His great loss is still felt in town, and we remain optimistic that this case will be resolved."

   Bateman's widow still lives in town and is a teacher. Around the time of his death they had planned to start a family.

   Darien police are still looking for help from someone who saw something near the Duchess that night, or perhaps a girlfriend, family member or associate of the shooter. There is a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who killed Kenneth Bateman.

Back to Top