Hartford Courant – by STEPHEN BUSEMEYER
The state trooper who allegedly stole cash and a gold chain from the victim of a fatal motorcycle crash was one of two troopers who went to the victim’s mother’s house that night to tell her that her son had died, according to an arrest warrant.
Trooper First Class Aaron Huntsman, 43, was the lead investigator of the Sept. 22 crash in Fairfield that killed John Scalesse, 49, of Orange.
Huntsman, an 18-year veteran, faces larceny charges and an internal investigation after his own dashboard camera recorded a conversation with emergency personnel at the scene that police say implicates him in the theft of $3,700 in cash.
Scalesse had spent Friday, Sept. 21, with friends. They met for lunch at a restaurant in Woodbridge and rode their motorcycles to a festival in lower Manhattan. Scalesse peeled bills from a large bundle of cash throughout the day, a friend told police. They had dinner together, then drinks, and headed back to Connecticut around 10:30 p.m., the warrant states.
They stopped in Greenwich, took their helmets off and continued on in separate directions, his friend told police.
Huntsman was the first trooper to arrive at the crash, which happened at midnight on the Merritt Parkway, the warrant states. Two other troopers arrived soon after. Scalesse’s motorcycle had collided with a truck, and Scalesse, still alive, was soon loaded into an ambulance.
Michael Schumann, a Fairfield firefighter who had treated Scalesse on the ground, climbed into the ambulance with him for the ride to the hospital. He told police that two troopers came up to the back of the ambulance and asked if there was a wallet. Schumann saw a bulge in Scalesse’s pocket, cut the pants open, and inside he found a large amount of cash and some plastic cards.
Schumann told police he handed everything to a trooper — later identified as Trooper Mark DiCocco — who said he needed only the man’s ID. DiCocco handed the cash back to Schumann and told him to put it back in the man’s pocket, Schumann told police.
Schumann said another trooper told him he would take the cash and put it into evidence.
DiCocco and other emergency personnel told police that Huntsman took the cash and went back to his police car.
Later, DiCocco noticed a broken and bloody gold chain on the ground near where Scalesse had been lying. Huntsman said he would take the chain as evidence, DiCocco said.
Later that night, Huntsman accompanied his supervisor to Scalesse’s mother’s home, where they told her that her son had died. Huntsman handed over Scalesse’s license, a pistol permit, and two cell phones. Then Huntsman drove her to the hospital.
The next night, Scalesse’s father, John Scalesse Sr., called the Bridgeport state police barracks and spoke with Huntsman. Scalesse told Huntsman that his son always carried $2,000 to $4,000 cash and asked if it had been recovered. Huntsman told him it hadn’t, the warrant states.
When Scalesse pressed Huntsman about what he had given to the victim’s mother, Huntsman told him he had no wallet or money, the warrant states.
“That would have been taken probably by the ambulance crew,” Huntsman said.
Scalesse told police he’d also asked about the gold chain his son always wore. It too was missing.
In the days that followed, John Scalesse Sr. got a phone call from a friend who said he’d heard that a fireman at the scene of the crash saw a bundle of money.
Scalesse renewed his search for the missing belongings. He called Huntsman three times, he told police, as well as the ambulance service and the hospital where his son died. None of them knew anything about the missing belongings, he said.
Finally, Scalesse got in touch with another trooper through a mutual friend. That trooper contacted Huntsman’s supervisor, who questioned Huntsman about the missing money and jewelry.
Huntsman admitted that he had the gold chain, which was later valued at $5,500. He told his supervisor that he’d left it in the cup holder in his police car, inside a glove, and forgotten about it. He denied knowing anything about missing money.
When the supervisor asked DiCocco if he’d seen any cash, the trooper told him to watch the video recorded from Huntsman’s vehicle.
The video shows the back of the ambulance. Someone can be heard saying the word “cash” and mentions not wanting to take the money. Then Huntsman can be heard saying “I’ll take it, I’ll take it as evidence,” the warrant states. Huntsman then can be seen walking toward his car.
On Oct. 21, a month after the crash, troopers asked Huntsman about the money and the video. He denied seeing any money and told detectives they could search his car.
They found $3,700 cash, wrapped in a rubber band, under the front passenger seat, the warrant states.
On Nov. 14, Huntsman and his attorney, Jeffrey Ment, met with state police investigators. Ment asked to view the video from the night of the crash. Huntsman admitted that he can be heard saying “I’ll take it as evidence” but insisted that he never saw any cash.
After consulting with his attorney, Huntsman said “Well it looks like I must have taken the money,” the warrant states.
The next day, Ment told investigators that Huntsman had checked into a substance abuse program and would be there for about two weeks. Ment said it was a “pain medication type of program,” the warrant states. Huntsman has been on administrative leave since his arrest.
He faces two counts of third-degree larceny and one count each of interfering with an officer and tampering with physical evidence. He is due in court on Dec. 10.
Members of the Scalesse family have not returned calls seeking comment.