Police: Man charged in West Greenwich murder didn’t know victim

WEST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — The brutal murder of a West Greenwich man over the weekend is believed by police to have been a random and unprovoked attack.

Christian Lepore, 34, of Richmond, was arrested and charged with the murder of 63-year-old John O’Neil, according to the criminal complaint obtained by Eyewitness News.

At a news conference Wednesday, police revealed that O’Neil called 911 Saturday after Lepore emerged from the tree line at his John Potter Road home.

“We’re alleging that he beat him to death with objects in the yard,” said State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell.

O’Donnell said the whole ordeal was caught on the victim’s open line to 911.

“It’s horrific to listen to. It’s going to be part of our criminal prosecution,” he added. “As a career cop, it’s pretty difficult to listen to something like that.”

Police said O’Neil was completely blindsided, caught in circumstances as random as could be.

“The investigation thus far has found no previous relationship between O’Neil and Lepore,” O’Donnell explained.

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O’Donnell said Lepore worked as a cook at URI’s Alton Jones campus nearby and was “told to leave work due to irrational behavior that day.” Investigators said he was out of control and “in an altered state,” believed to have been under the influence of a substance.

“There was an altercation on the campus between Mr. Lepore and someone else,” added O’Donnell. “That, coupled with his irrational behavior – they sent him home.”

Police were forced to use a stun gun several times on Lepore and it still took four officers to wrestle the 350 pound man to the ground, according to O’Donnell.

In addition to O’Neil’s murder, Lepore is also charged with assaulting two West Greenwich police officers and a K-9.

O’Donnell said none of the responding officers fired their weapons.

“It is my professional opinion all officers that arrived on scene had every right to use deadly force and chose not to.”

A friend of O’Neil’s described the victim as a quiet, private person and a skilled carpenter. Police said he leaves behind a wife of two decades.

A spokesperson from the University of Rhode Island said, “The University community is heartbroken over this devastating tragedy, and our thoughts are with the victim and his family.”

Lepore has been charged with murder and multiple counts of assaulting a police officer. He was arraigned in the hospital and ordered held without bail, pending a hearing on June 13.

While police weren’t able to say when precisely the last homicide was in the town, research conducted by Eyewitness News shows a case in 2004 was the most recent.

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