When the (now ex-) president of the Litchfield Land Trust was arrested for growing marijuana on land protected by his own conservation organization in northwest Connecticut, it made all the papers. Now the Land Trust is in the news again, and though not through any fault of its own, the story is even more outrageous. It also has a bearing on my day job as Director of the Litchfield Hills Greenprint, as the news story alerted us to the existence of land protected by the Land Trust in the nearby town of Morris where we were unaware that the Trust had any protected holdings.
According to this story in the Hartford Courant, the Litchfield Land Trust must have at least one easement in Morris, because the police apparently needed its permission to dismantle a stone wall there looking for the remains of a man who has been missing since 1978. This cold case got suddenly hot about a year and a half ago, when a man under indictment for possession of more than 100 pounds of marijuana walked into the police station with a bag containing the skeletal remains of a human arm.
"(Kenneth Gelormino Jr.) told police the bones belonged to Lester "Chip" Stewart, who had been reported missing in January 1980, 16 months after he was last seen in Litchfield County — in September 1978.
Police had long suspected that Stewart was the victim of a drug deal gone bad.
Gelormino, who lived in Torrington, told authorities he got the bones from his father, Kenneth Gelormino Sr. The son said his father, facing a life-threatening disease, told him a gruesome secret: He and another man killed Stewart, burned his body and buried it under a stone wall.
The elder Gelormino had kept the bones as collateral to blackmail his former partner, and he wanted his son to use the bones to continue to extort money from the man, who had since moved to Arizona."
This story reads like something out of a Robert B. Parker novel. Stewart was a drifter thought to have been be a drug runner between Florida and Connecticut in the 1970s. DNA tests on the bag of bones show a positive match with its contents. The current owner of the land purchased it subject to the conservation easement and was not the owner at the time of Stewart's disappearance. The new President of the Litchfield Land Trust agreed to cooperate with police and to let them dismantle the stone wall, which certainly looks like the proper call. I am sure it is not the kind of press attention the Trust was looking for, but it is the talk of the town.