Around 9:25 a.m. on Sept. 1, 1966, Everett “Red” Delano waved to a woman driving by Sanborn’s Garage off Route 4 in Andover, New Hampshire. At 10 a.m., just over a half hour later, he was found on the floor of the garage, blood around his head; it was later determined he had been shot to death. Delano’s watch was struck by a bullet, its time forever stopped at 9:35 a.m.
For over 50 years, Delano’s murder had remained a mystery, until Wednesday morning, when the N.H. Department of the Attorney General announced they’d finally figured out who killed the 49-year-old that day.
Thomas Cass of Orleans, Vermont, who had a criminal history spanning decades and who shot himself back on Feb. 24, 2014, at age 67, is now believed to be Delano’s killer. While leads dried up back in 1966, the N.H. Cold Case Unit reopened the case in 2013 after one of Delano’s family members contacted them, according to the report.
NH AG NEWS RELEASE: Closure and Resolution of the 1966 Homicide of Everett Delano in Andover, New Hampshire as Solved
— NH DOJ (@NH_DOJ) February 20, 2019
By using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, which began to be developed in the 1960s, but “was not fully operational and not every state submitted fingerprint cards to the FBI” at the time of the murder, officials found a match between Cass and fingerprints found on the garage’s bathroom sink at the time, the report notes.
Delano, a retired Navy veteran, was living in Wilmot Flat, New Hampshire, with his wife and three children, according to the report. He worked overnights as a night watchman for Colby Sawyer College, but was also employed part-time at the garage.
While investigators originally believed Delano was beaten during a robbery, they later found he had been shot three times in the head; he succumbed to his injuries the following day.
Investigators determined “numerous items” were taken from the garage, including between $75 and $100 from the cash register. A .22-caliber slug, a type of bullet, was found at the scene. Investigators also found the bathroom sink next to the garage office was running, and this was tested for fingerprints, according to the report.
At the time, police gathered .22-caliber guns from residents who had them in Andover and from people who had recently bought them; they also searched the Blackwater River for the firearm in question. It was never found. Investigators went through all their leads, and the case went cold, the report says.
Investigators didn’t tell Cass about the fingerprint match when they spoke with him in the fall of 2013 at his Vermont home. He did speak about “his long criminal history,” the report says. Cass was 20 when Delano was killed. That same year, 1966, Cass was convicted of larceny and contributing to delinquency in Westfield District Court in Massachusetts. From then through 2000, he was convicted on a variety of crimes, including a couple of robberies, one of which was armed and masked. He was also convicted of escape in 1982 and making drugs in federal prison in 2000.
When investigators asked Cass in 2013 if he knew about Delano’s murder, he denied it, according to the report.
“He said that he had been in New Hampshire only once, and that was Hampton, New Hampshire,” the report says. “In the same interview he acknowledged that he had once stolen a car in Vermont that he drove into New Hampshire.”
Investigators met with Cass again that November. While he agreed to provide DNA samples for the homicide investigation, he wouldn’t submit to a lie detector test.
It was Feb. 20, 2014, that investigators told Cass forensic evidence “put him in the gas station at the time of the robbery and subsequent homicide,” though they didn’t tell him what that evidence was, the report says.
Cass continued to deny committing the crime, and, when asked to give his side of the story, he asked for a lawyer, according to the report. A search warrant allowed investigators to comb his home for the murder weapon, but no weapons were found there.
Four days later, Cass shot himself — a .45-caliber Llama handgun was found near him.
That same day, investigators spoke with Jane Spainol, Cass’s companion who lived with him. In the 911 call, Spainol said Cass believed he was going to be arrested in regard to a cold case, according to the report.
“She reported that Mr. Cass had told her that he had never been to Andover and that he was not involved in the murder,” the report says. “However, Mr. Cass had also once told her in the past, ‘you never talk about something that has no statute of limitations.’”
Cass had also told her he would not die in prison.
Along with his fingerprints at the scene, officials believe there are two admissions of guilt by Cass. One was the statute of limitations statement — homicide is the only crime where there isn’t one, according to the report. The other was his suicide.
“Over the years, he made it clear to those closest to him that he would never go back to prison,” the report says. “It is a fair inference that he killed himself to avoid going back to prison.”