James Vasile

The death of James Vasile, more than any other fact, has given more credence to the conspiracy theories surrounding the Monson case.

He was found dead of a gunshot wound to the lower abdomen the day after Thanksgiving 1984, and rumors swirled about his involvement. It’s not hard to see why. Joseph DeVoe, who discovered Vasile’s body, said his friend was obsessed with the Monson case and fancied himself a bit of a detective. Vasile testified before the grand jury investigating the Monson murder, saying Tom Bianco admitted to the killing. But after his death, there were rumors that he knew much more.

In some rumors, Vasile is said to have video taped everything he knew about the Monson murder — facts culled from his own sleuthing and admissions from those involved. According to the rumors, Vasile was killed to silence him before the information he’d gathered could make it to authorities.

Still another rumor, started after Vasile’s death, accuses Vasile of being directly involved in the murder. Mark Sweeting told the Bianco defense team that Thomas Calescibetta admitted that he, Vasile and John Corning (son of county Judge Peter Corning) raped Monson on video tape at Vasile’s house, then killed her when she broke her leg trying to escape from a moving car. Calescibetta said Monson’s body was buried under Vasile’s shed for a time before finally being moved to Montezuma Wildlife Refuge.

There are facts that lend credence to the theories. Vasile was a video buff, who DeVoe said was “always making video tapes.” And Vasile himself likely helped fuel the flames of the rumors himself: “You had to know Jimmy,” DeVoe said. “He wanted to play detective. He told me during the (Monson) investigation his phone was tapped.”

And of course there’s Vasile’s suspicious death. It’s exceedingly rare for someone to commit suicide by shooting themselves with a rifle in the lower abdomen. That has always led conspiracy theorists to cry foul play.

But Vasile suffered from depression. He’d been troubled for at least a couple of years. He’d been arrested a couple of times for harassment, and led police on a high-speed chase through Auburn and into Aurelius. He was unstable, and had been sent to Hutchings Psychiatric Center for evaluation.

On Thanksgiving Day 1984, at about 11 a.m., Vasile phoned a battered women’s shelter, demanding to speak with his wife. When his demands were denied, he threatened to kill himself. Shortly after, the woman heard a pop on the other end of the line, then only the sound of the television in the background. She called police, who found Vasile’s house dark and the front door locked. They did not enter.

But the next morning, when DeVoe stopped in for a visit, he found his friend on the floor, the phone still in his hand, the rifle nearby.

DeVoe never believed Vasile killed himself — at least not intentionally:

“There was no way he could have killed himself,” DeVoe says. “It might have been accidental. The rifle had a hair trigger. When the cop tapped the barrel, it fired.”

Download: Story from The Citizen on Vasile’s death..