More than a year after a Holyoke, Massachusetts, man was murdered and found dead from a gunshot wound at the Quality Inn, the case is still under active investigation but no arrests have been made.

Jonathon Houghton, 35, of Holyoke, was found dead in a room at the Rutland hotel on Nov. 22, 2020. The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington determined the cause of Houghton’s death was a gunshot wound to the torso and the manner of death was a homicide.

In April, Jonah Pandiani, 19, of Rutland, was also shot and killed at the Quality Inn. In that case, another teenager, Kahliq Richardson, 18, of Rutland, turned himself in and told police the shooting was accidental.

There have been no statements from police to suggest the two shootings were connected but officials from Rutland and Rutland Town have raised questions with state officials, who placed some homeless residents in the Quality during the pandemic to provide a place where they could shelter to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Asked for comment on the case, Adam Silverman, spokesman for Vermont State Police, responded by email.

“The investigation into this death remains open and active. We continue to encourage anyone with information that might be relevant to the case to contact the Vermont State Police in Rutland at 802-773-9101. People also can submit a tip anonymously online at vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit,” he said.

The Vermont State Police maintain a website with a list of unsolved homicides but Houghton is not on the list.

Cmdr. David LaChance, of Rutland City Police Department, said the city police force also had no new information that could be released to the public at this time.

However, he spoke about the complications a case like Houghton’s death presents during a police investigation.

“It’s much more challenging when you have people, they may not be from this area, there’s a lot more unknowns in a public atmosphere than if (the investigation) was in a house where we knew everybody that was there,” he said.

Police officers have often said that residents of a community can provide important clues to an active investigation. During the pandemic, many Vermonters have restricted their movements, but LaChance said he didn’t think that has made Rutland City investigations more complicated.

“I don’t think that has affected any of the investigation so far,” he said.

LaChance said he didn’t know whether there were any eyewitnesses to the homicide but said he believed there were a good number of people in the general vicinity of the Quality who spoke with police.

While some local leaders had expressed strong concerns about incidents at the Quality Inn or seemingly connected to the people staying there during the pandemic, LaChance said there was not unusual pressure, beyond their desire to solve a homicide case, during the Houghton investigation.

In June, officials with the Economic Services Division of the Department for Children and Families said most of the people placed there had been relocated.

LaChance said police had been called about a number of incidents at the Quality during the pandemic but said not all of them were violent.

“As of this point, we don’t really have a lot of problems (at the Quality Inn,)” LaChance said.

Brian Miller, who retired from the Vermont State Police as a lieutenant after more than 25 years and now owns Green Mountain Resolutions, which provides conflict consulting, professional mediation, consulting and training, said it’s not unusual for a murder investigation to go on for some time until a suspect is identified.

“When a homicide first comes in, they do try to dump a lot of resources up front in it, hoping you can solve it quickly. That’s not always the case, but a case always remains open until it’s solved. That’s the way it is with any case,” he said.

Even when the public doesn’t see the activity, that doesn’t mean law-enforcement officers aren’t working on resolving a case, Miller added.

“There are detectives assigned to it who are following up on leads as they come in and they may be waiting for forensic evidence to come in of some sort. When you just have the victim and nothing else, you have to do the victimology which means you go back and you examine, literally, the victim’s life and what would put them at the place where a homicide occurred and just try to piece together where they could have crossed paths with someone who killed them,” he said.

A press release sent on Wednesday seemed to reinforce Miller’s point. A little more than three years after the death of two Woodbury residents who were found dead in their homes after both homes, which were separate but on the same property, were found to be on fire, the Vermont State Police announced that Manuel Gomez, of Hartford, Connecticut, was a suspect in the deaths.

Gomez is in federal custody and is expected to be arrested to face the Vermont charges after being released, which is scheduled to happen next week.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com

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