November 17, 2000 Sentencing of Lawrence Tutt For The Murder of William Freitag
Can you imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning to discover that overnight you had lost your best friend, your brother, your son, your livelihood, your future plans, your home, your clothes, all of your belongings, and there wasn‘t a thing in the world you could do to change it? This is what happened to Billy‘s friends and family on December 18, 1998. Billy’s body, his clothes, his creations, his belongings, all gone, burnt to a black conglomerated pile of dark, ugly, grimy, cold, frozen, ash, with a nauseating odor that permeated everything. This is where we spent Christmas of 1998, in shock and grief, trying to make sense out of what didn’t make sense, knowing deep in our guts that everything was wrong with the world, knowing that we were being lied to, fearing what other horrors would follow, watching Larry Tutt have a party in the midst of our funeral. We were trying to salvage and reconstruct whatever we could of our lives out of the debris, trying to fix what couldn’t be fixed. Billy was dead. The most personal item I could find of my brother’s was a burnt remnant of a sweater that he wore dangling from the charred rafters. This is what Larry Tutt gave our family for Christmas that year.
Of course in the days after the fire, we were reminded, “You can buy new things?”, but some things can‘t be replaced, especially Billy and his personal belongings. “You can build a new house.” But why? There is no one in the family that can emotionally bear to live on the property- so rich with precious memories, yet so intensely coupled to the pain, sadness, and horror of Billy‘s murder.
Bill Freitag is not just a murder victim. Bill is a son, a brother, a friend, and so much more. For those of us that love him, nothing has been the same since his life was prematurely stolen from him and from us. Billy was intertwined through so many aspects of so many lives. Billy had grown to become the heart and future of the family home, farm, and business, which he had expanded to include farming, greenhouses, and retailing flowers, vegetables, pumpkins, and christmas trees. He also had his own business, Freitag’s Landscaping and Home Improvement, that included carpentry, landscaping, sea walls, patios, and home improvement. He had friends who were business partners, employees, house mates, and essentially his extended family. He had family members that were also friends and business partners. His home was also his parents home, the home where we all grew up together, and Billy was dedicated to making his life there to care for the farm, grow the family business, and be there for his parents into their old age. Billy had a strong sense of obligation and responsibility, and a lot of people’s lives and futures were closely intertwined with his in so many ways. So when Billy was murdered, some of us may have lost a brother or friend, but many of us also lost livelihoods, futures, security, and our home of 30 years.
Some people live their lives to acquire and accomplish. Billy rejected this approach and instead lived his life to prove that everything that mattered to him was real. He couldn‘t stand values that weren‘t backed with actions to make them real. Billy was a man that poured his sweat, his creativity, his love, and his values into the way he lived his life. He played hard, worked hard, loved hard, and ventured further than most, beyond what was comfortable, beyond what was safe to bring life and meaning to concepts like compassion, generosity, honesty, loyalty, trust, faith, brotherhood, unconditional love, forgiveness, and freedom.
Billy was an idealist and a perfectionist, and a frustrated one at that because he was just as human as the next person. He made mistakes. He had qualities he wanted to change about himself. He suffered hard times and he enjoyed good times. In the months prior to his death he was at a particular low point in his life. He was struggling with a broken heart. His fiancee had left him August. Depression had paralyzed his productivity. He was struggling with “heavy ‘bouts of drinking“ to cope. He was being reckless with survival and had fallen into several of the dysfunctional cycles that are so common of people in crisis.
Any of us who’ve ever been through a break up or been a friend to someone with a broken heart, knows what this is like. Nobody can fix a broken heart for someone else. The best you can do is stand by patiently, compassionately with open arms and open ears, praying for the person to make it through to the other side of grief and crisis, where they emerge with new found strength, self worth, and new reasons for living. This is what friends do, but not Larry Tutt. He chose to prey on Billy during this vulnerable time.
Billy was trying to piece his life back together and he was almost there, but Billy never made it all the way through. Not because he didn’t want to. Not because he didn’t try. But because Larry Tutt took away all the new beginnings, all the second chances, all the second winds from my brother. Billy wanted to live. The fact that after he was set on fire, he managed to get up out of bed and almost made it to the sliding glass door, attests to the fact that he wanted to live. The fact that his carboxy hemoglobin levels indicated that he lived longer than most people that are set on fire, attests to the fact that HE WANTED TO LIVE!
I would like to read an excerpt from the December 18, 1998 Herald Journal.
Tutt mourned the loss of his best friend as he watched volunteer firefighters extinguish pockets of fire that STILL burned more than 2 hours after Freitag‘s mother called 911. “He was my best friend.”, Tutt said. He had known Freitag since they were 10. Tutt described his friend as a gentle man who would set a spider free and whose passion was working on the farm and growing produce. “I never saw him lift a fist.” Tutt said, “All he cared about was creating.”
This is how Larry Tutt described Billy to a reporter only two hours after he set him on fire! Clearly, Larry KNEW who and what he was stealing from the world, from Billy’s friends and family, from God, and especially from Billy, and HE DIDN‘T CARE. After taking advantage of him, tarnishing his identity and reputation, Larry decided Billy was worth more to him dead than alive, so he killed him. And he did it in one of the most cruel heinous desecrating ways that one could take a human life. He doused Billy with accelerant to the point that his body kept burning even after the king size waterbed he was sleeping in melted open; to the point that Billy’s body repeatedly re-ignited after being extinguished by fire fighters; to the point that my brother’s teeth exploded and his skin, hands, and lower jaw were completely consumed by the fire; to the point that his once beautiful handsome face was burnt off to the back of his eye sockets!
If this is what Larry Tutt is capable of doing to his best friend, who was putting literally everything on the line to help him, what is he capable of doing to strangers, or worse someone who he is angry at? Human life is no more important to Larry than a piece of toilet paper. And using someone else to clean up his foul mess is power trip to Larry Tutt, something to revel in and brag about.
I should note too, that Larry’s victimization and manipulation did not end with Billy’s life. He tried to lay claim to rescue attempts someone else made. He tried to lay claim to Bill’s life insurance policies. He tried to lay claim to Billy’s trucks stating that he had paid cash for one and earned the other in mechanical labor the days before the fire. He tried to lay claim to Billy’s business asking my Dad if he could be the new manager. He told friends he was getting power of attorney to handle Billy’s affairs. Even after Bill’s death, Larry’s wife continued to make unauthorized charges on Billy’s credit card. It is clear that Larry will lie, manipulate, and exploit at every opportunity.
Larry Tutt knew long before this fire that some day Billy’s life would be his way out of taking responsibility for his own crimes. He was too cowardly to put anything of his own at risk for his ill deeds, and he was too lazy to earn an honest living. This scheme is something Larry began setting into motion in 1992.
This is not the first time Larry Tutt has impersonated my brother. May I present to you a police report from 1992.
Billy is not the only person Larry Tutt has impersonated. May present you with an FBI data sheet with Patrick Peterson listed as an alias along with my brother’s name. I often wonder about Patrick, whether he knows he’s being used or if he is already dead.
This is not the first time Larry has schemed to evade responsibility for his crimes. May I present to you the law brief on Ben Gary Treistman’s appeal that describes how Larry simultaneously served as an informant and planted firearms to further incriminate Ben for Larry’s crimes. Ben Gary Treistman won his appeal in 1996 and now has about 2 million in law suits against the NYS Police, the DEA, and Larry Tutt.
This is not the first incendiary fire Larry has been involved with. May I present to you a copy of a fire report from 1980.
This is not the first murder Larry Tutt has bragged about. Go ask Marlin Watkins about Larry’s stories of dumping bodies down mineshafts in Leadville, Colorado. Or ask Connie and Richie Oram, Eric Jetty, or Peggy Kerouac about Larry’s story of asphixiating a family with pool chemicals. This was the story he chose to share with grieving friends one day after Bill‘s death.
If you examine Larry Tutt’s history carefully, you will see that very little about this fire and what lead up to it is a first for Larry. But this IS first time he is being held accountable. If we knew then what we know now, Larry would never have been allowed to sleep in our home and eat at our table. And knowing what we now know, who on earth would want him as a friend, an enemy, or even a stranger in their community.
One challenge that each of us has had to deal with as Bill’s survivors is the anger that such a heinous crime leaves behind. What do you do with it? On the one hand we want Larry to experience all the pain he created for Billy, our family, and friends. But, Larry’s murder was so heinous and depraved, that to inflict it or even wish it on anyone would entail crossing over to the cruel-heartedness that Larry lives by. When an eye for an eye means giving up one’s soul to anger, you are best to turn it over to the justice system and to God. I’ll be damned if any one of us will let Larry steal our lives too. So instead of vengeance, we pray for Larry to be blessed with a conscience so he can feel for himself ALL the pain he has created.
One thing that helps survivors cope with their anger and resist the temptation to take justice and vengeance into their own hands, is the knowledge that the murderer is locked up and they and others are safe from further victimization at the murderers hands. If the murderer walks free- EVER- the survivor’s anger is heightened by fear of revenge, by fear of re-victimization, by anger at the double injustice of a murderer living freely while their loved one is still just as dead as the day they were murdered.
The hardest thing we have had to deal with as Billy’s friends, family, and survivors is the fear that someday Larry may walk free again. The fear that some day we or some other unsuspecting person might wake from a sound sleep to flames or some other horror. As I mentioned before, if this is what Larry does to friends that are trying to help, what will he do to those who he is angry at, such as those who contacted police and those who testified against him? It has been very clear that Larry blames Billy’s family and friends for doing what any responsible citizen would do, turn it over to the police. Victimize and blame the victims- this is how Larry thinks, and this why we need to assure that nobody ever falls victim to Larry Tutt again.
We are aware that by law, the maximum sentence you can deliver is concurrent 25 yr to life sentences, because the law views arson homicides as a single act. I know 25 years sounds like a long time, but it’s not long enough, and if it’s followed by possibility of parole every two years, it isn’t good enough. And here’s why.
One, Larry has a very poor prognosis for rehabilitation. He enjoys destruction and pain- so long as it’s not his. There just isn’t much to work with. Larry is the epitomy of human deficiency- no compassion, no conscience, no remorse, and evidently not enough intelligence to override his delusions of grandeur. He really believed no one would notice the difference between a human being falling victim to an accidental house fire, and a human body being incinerated! He really thought he could be it all- murderer, hero, bereaved friend, beneficiary!!! And he bragged about this master scheme and manipulation.
Two, although the charges are second degree murder, this murder was clearly heinous and premeditated. Unfortunately, charges are often compromised by the availability of evidence. This is especially common in arson cases.
Three, the various charges of murder and arson do not stem from the same act, and the sentences should therefore, be consecutive instead of concurrent. Act one, Larry spread accelerant on and around my brother, ignited it and closed the bed room door. Act two, he spread accelerant throughout the rest of the upstairs apartment to be ignited when the fire burned through the door. We haven’t even begun counting the other acts that contributed to this tragedy- disabling smoke detectors, jamming the sliding glass door shut, confining Billy’s dog, Smoky. No matter how many distinct acts were involved, certainly our losses have not been concurrent, so why should Larry‘s sentence be concurrent? If Larry had shot my brother with a gun and then set the house on fire to dispose of the evidence, the sentences would be consecutive. Why should the sentencing be any different just because Larry Tutt chose fire as his murder weapon, a weapon that ensured maximum pain, fear, suffering, and destruction. In my estimation, his heinous methods and elaborate schemes and manipulations should warrant more time actually served, not less.
I believe strongly that the sentence should reflect the loss and damage caused by this man’s actions and also the need to protect society from him. We lost Billy. We lost our home. We lost our belongings. An accounting of the damages reaches almost $300,000 dollars, but this is really the least of the losses Larry perpetrated against our family. We lost the ability to feel at peace on our own property. We will never feel truly safe in the world again. We will never be able to trust as we once could. And every happy memory of growing up with Billy and seeing Billy grow, will be shadowed with the grief of this murder.
Although we will never forget Billy or what Larry Tutt did to him, we would like to reach a time when we don’t have to worry about Larry Tutt and revisit repeatedly the horror he perpetrated. We never again want Larry Tutt, and the anxiety of whether he will go free, and what he will do when he is free to become the MOST IMPORTANT THING in our lives to contend with. We want our fond memories of Billy to take the forefront without being overcast by Larry Tutt. Possibility of parole, after even 25 years means that every 2 years Bill’s family and friends will be dragged through this horror and anxiety again and again and again. This is not how any of us deserve to spend our retirement or last years here on Earth, traveling to parole hearings. It is simply not fair to give this depraved excuse of a human being this kind of undeserved power over the lives of innocent people. I implore you to give Larry a sentence that will ensure that HE is reminded daily of what he did, and that will allow the rest of us to forget Larry Tutt, or least cast our thoughts of him to the most remote withering corners of our pasts.
We wish you had the power to define where in that range of 25 years to life Larry’s sentence will fall. In the spirit of Jenna’s law and the NYS state sentencing reform acts, which call for truth in sentencing whereby violent felons receive determinant sentences that cannot be shortened by the parole process, we wish you could make the sentence of life mean life in prison. If this crime doesn’t deserve a mandatory life sentence, what crime does?
Respectfully Submitted By,
On Behalf Of Bill Freitag and All Who Loved Him