Death of Vietnam vet ruled murder

July 10, 2008 4:40:57 PM PDT
Human remains discovered in a root cellar have marked the start of a murder mystery. The bones of a Vietnam Veteran were found last month in the woods in Suffern.

After an extensive forensic investigation, officials have determined the man was beaten to death.

"What we are really asking the public to help with is notify the department of the last time that they saw Mr. Hewett so we can help to refine that timeline," township supervisor Christpher St. Lawrence.

A forensic anthropologist determined that approximately 6 to 9 months ago someone beat to death 57-year-old Robert Hewett with a blunt object.

"Frankly, we don't know what we are looking for. We don't know what kind of object caused the trauma," Detective Lieutenant Brad Wiedel said.

In June, a utility worker stumbled upon Hewett's skeletal remains in an old root cellar off Hemion Road.

"There are numerous homeless people that live back here. They come and go," said Gary Wirchansky, owner of Nicky's Pizzeria. He says even though he didn't know Hewett by name, he was a friendly homeless man who just appeared to be down on his luck

"Every now and then, I'd give him something to eat because we felt bad for him digging through the garbage. He never bothered anybody," Wirchansky said.

Police say Hewett lived mostly in the woods and outdoors for the last 15 years.

Neighbors told us up until about eight months ago Hewett was typically seen wandering around the strip mall.

Hewett served in the U.S. Marine Corp. during the Vietnam War.

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Thalia Patillo