Married during the pandemic, Joseph and Emily Ferlazzo were supposed to be celebrating their first wedding anniversary with a scenic Vermont camping trip. The couple left Northfield, New Hampshire, on Friday, October 15th, driving the converted bus that was also their home, which they lived in on Emily’s parents’ property. They traveled a little more than two hours to Bolton, Vermont, a rural town in the western foothills of the Green Mountains, 30 miles east of Burlington and the shores of Lake Champlain. Joseph’s sister and her boyfriend had rented an Airbnb nearby.
But on Monday, October 18th, Joseph, 41, returned home without Emily, 22. He told her parents they’d gotten in an argument in a parking lot on Saturday. He said he’d restrained her when she’d tried to leave, and she’d kicked him in the groin. After that, he told her parents, he’d left to go to the store and Emily had told him she was going to get an Uber back to New Hampshire. That was the last he’d heard of her.
After speaking with Joseph, Emily’s mother and stepfather reported her missing. They told police they knew of three or four incidents of domestic violence in the couple’s relationship, that they’d seen Emily with scratches and bruises, and Emily had told her mom they came from a physical altercation with Joseph.
Meanwhile, Joseph drove his red Jeep Wrangler back to Vermont. Just past midnight on October 19th, according to a Vermont police officer’s affidavit, someone named Spencer Lemons called 911 saying Joseph had just confessed to killing his wife. Lemons, whose relationship to Joseph has not been specified, said he’d been giving Joseph a ride to his camper, which was parked at a residence in the town of St. Albans, Vermont, around an hour northwest of Bolton, where Emily and Joseph had been staying. As they approached the bus, Lemons asked Joseph why there were state troopers around the camper. According to an affidavit, Joseph told him it was because Emily was inside, and that she was not alive. Lemons asked if he’d killed her and Joseph replied, “Yes.” At that point, Lemons said, he kicked Joesph out of his car and called the cops. Both men left the area and officers found Joseph later at a nearby gas station.
Under police questioning on Tuesday, October 19th, Joseph revealed their trip had not been the peaceful fall getaway it may have appeared to be. He said that after they’d arrived in Bolton, he and Emily had started to argue. According to his statement, which was released as part of the criminal complaint against him, they spent some time with his sister and her boyfriend before returning to their camper that night and continuing to fight. He said she punched and kicked him in the arm and groin during the altercation. After things calmed down, Emily lay down on the bed in the camper. Joseph told cops she laid there five to ten minutes. Then he grabbed a Glock handgun from a cabinet, “jumped on top of her,” and fired two shots into her head.
According to Joseph’s statement to police, after he’d shot her, he panicked. He put a garbage bag over her head to collect the blood, and moved her into the camper’s bathroom. He left her there while he went to breakfast with his sister and her boyfriend in Waterbury, where tourists can visit the original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. After breakfast, he moved the camper to a friend’s house in St. Albans and dismembered her body. He told police he cut off her hands, feet, legs, and head using a hand saw. Once finished, he put the body parts in garbage bags and left them in the camper.
Police found eight bags in the camper, one of which contained what appeared to be a severed human leg, missing the foot and the rest of which appeared to be human remains. Authorities sent the bags to the medical examiner for autopsy.
The case has some parallels to the high-profile case of Gabby Petito, which started out as a search for a missing person after Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, returned from a road trip in a converted van without her at the beginning of September. Petito was found strangled to death near a Wyoming campground weeks later. Laundrie is considered a person of interest in her death but has himself been missing for over a month. Authorities on Wednesday announced the discovery of human remains in their search for him, along with some of his personal belongings, though the remains have not yet been identified.
After police video surfaced showing Petito crying in the back of a patrol car following a physical altercation with Laundrie, the case drew attention to the potential for domestic violence in the #vanlife community, where a nomadic lifestyle can make it easier for an abuser to isolate a victim from their support systems, and small living quarters can cause tempers to flare. “We saw it with Covid and the increase with physical violence, or family violence where we saw more reports of escalated violence between family members,” Maureen Curtis, vice president of criminal justice programs at Safe Horizon, a national domestic violence hotline, told Rolling Stone. “People were confined to tight spaces. So yes, it’s not surprising if I’m traveling around in an RV, that could lead to an escalation of violence if there is already some type of DV.”
Joseph Ferlazzo was arraigned Wednesday and entered a plea of not guilty. When Rolling Stone reached out to the defense attorney assigned to Ferlazzo for comment, Defender General Matthew Valerio replied. “Mr. Ferlazzo is innocent as a matter of law with the full panoply of statutory and constitutional rights and defenses available to him,” Valerio said. “The client retains that status until such time as the state proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt or the client decides to waive his rights and change his plea.”