It was an all-too-familiar courthouse confrontation between
the families of the defendant and the victim, but it was also
a sobering display of how the drug trade reaches far beyond city
Deborah Lathrop was walking into the courtroom this week when
she found herself in the middle of friends and relatives of the
young man accused of killing her son during a botched drug deal
three years ago.
"If your son would have just kept his white ass home, none
of this would have happened," someone yelled.
The trial winding up at Superior Court in Hartford isn't a routine
murder case, if any murder case can be called routine. What happened
the night a white man from Colchester came into the city to buy
drugs illuminated the suburbs' role in Hartford's drug violence,
a clandestine relationship of supply and demand, of two worlds
intersecting in a place where no one is innocent.
The night Lathrop's son died, witnesses said, he was looking
to buy drugs.
And police say 19-year-old Rondell Bonner, one of the two men
accused of killing him, was looking to sell them.
Of course Lathrop wants to know how and why her son died. But
it is the hour between a call to his girlfriend and when he was
found dead on a Hartford street that consumes her. Why was he
in that car? What was he doing on that street at that hour? She's
convinced that he wasn't alone.
It seems so obvious to anyone.
It was obvious to cops, who from the beginning called the shooting "narcotics-related." But
it's hard for Lathrop, a mother, to admit.
She fears her son will be remembered only as just another drug
user; she wants more than that. She wrote a letter about him
to make sure I knew the other parts of Scott Houle.
"What I need today is that people know my son for what
he was," she said. A father, a hard worker, a son she still
refers to in the present tense.
"Don't tell him I showed you this picture," she
says when she pulls out a goofy picture of Scott from the stack
of childhood photos of him she keeps in her purse.
But she also talks about the time she found him walking down
a Colchester street in the dead of winter without a shirt on,
high out of his mind. About going to a party two years later,
where he didn't expect to see her, and finding him high again.
About his asking his cousin for money for drugs.
The reality is that whatever else he was, Scott Houle was also
a drug user, one of the many suburban users who use this city
as a place to buy their drugs and hide their secrets.
It was 1 a.m. on Dec. 29, 2002, when police found 31-year-old
Scott Houle shot in the head and slumped in a car that had crashed
into a fence on Cabot Street.
Wednesday, there were a few more looks from the Bonner family.
A few more remarks. But the thing is, Lathrop says, she's not
mad at Bonner's mother. They have more in common than some might
think, she says: Both have seen their sons claimed by the violence
of the drug trade.
"You think it'll ever end?" she
I thought about her question later that afternoon when I found
myself on the street where her son died, behind a white couple
in a Toyota Camry who clearly knew their way around.
After a quick stop on the one-way street, an even quicker exchange
with a group of black kids, off they went. Zip, zip, zip down
a few streets and back on the highway again.
The car headed back into the suburbs.
The kids on the block waiting for their next customer.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at