HARTFORD, Conn. – A man captured in Mexico after 22 years on the run from a Connecticut murder conviction was sent to a high-security prison Thursday, hours after he was flown back to the United States from Mexico City.
Adam Zachs did not say a word during a brief appearance in Hartford Superior Court, where Judge David Gold ordered him to begin serving his 60-year sentence. Zachs, wearing green pants and a tan, long-sleeved fleece jacket, was led in and out of the courtroom in handcuffs and leg shackles as several of the victim's relatives stared at him from the gallery.
Zachs, 48, was convicted and sentenced in 1988 for shooting 29-year-old Peter Carone to death outside a West Hartford restaurant after Carone made a joke Zachs didn't like. State law at the time allowed him to post bail during his appeal, and he fled in 1989.
"I've waited years for this," the victim's mother, 83-year-old Addie Carone, said outside court. "I'd prayed, really, that finding Adam would happen during my lifetime, and I'm happy with that."
There didn't appear to be any members of Zachs' family in the courtroom.
State marshals later brought Zachs to the high-security MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, said Correction Department spokesman Brian Garnett.
Gold said the original judge in Zachs' case, Thomas Corrigan, who died May 31, had recommended at the time of sentencing that Zachs serve his time in a minimum-security prison. Gold said Zachs' actions surely would have changed Corrigan's mind, and said Zachs should be detained in high-security setting.
Several U.S. marshals and West Hartford police officers also attended the court hearing, saying they never gave up on trying to find Zachs. Addie Carone repeatedly praised them Thursday.
"This is justice," said Joseph Faughnan, the top U.S. marshal in Connecticut.
Authorities got a tip and arrested Zachs in February outside his home in Leon, Guanajuato, about five hours northwest of Mexico City. Police say he was living under the alias Ruben Fridman and he had a wife, two children and a computer repair business there.
A U.S. marshal and West Hartford detective escorted Zachs on a flight from Mexico City on Wednesday night and drove him to Hartford.
Zachs and Carone, who both grew up in West Hartford but didn't know each other, were watching a college basketball game at the restaurant when someone made a joke about the bar not being clean, police said. Carone then made a "spit-shine" joke, motioning like he was spitting on the bar and wiping it up. That angered Zachs for some reason, police said.
Zachs, who is a slender 5-foot-4, left the bar, got a gun and returned. Zachs and Carone went outside, where Carone said he didn't want to fight. He headed back toward the restaurant, and Zachs shot him in the back, police said.
After his conviction, Zachs posted a $250,000 appeal bond with the help of his aunt and fled with the help of his father, authorities said.
The 78-year-old father, Frederick Zachs, pleaded guilty in federal court recently to helping his son flee the country and sending him money over the years. Frederick Zachs is set to be sentenced to up to five years in prison in August for harboring a fugitive, but could get little or no jail time.
Frederick Zachs told authorities that he arranged for his son to be driven to New York to catch a flight to Mexico in June 1989. The elder Zachs admitted that he sent money to his son over the years through others and stayed in touch with him using an intermediary in Brooklyn, N.Y., to send and receive letters. He also said he used prepaid phone cards to call his son from pay phones in Arizona and New Jersey from 2002 to 2005.
Adam Zachs' case was featured several times on the Fox TV show "America's Most Wanted," which reported that police in the early 1990s learned that Zachs was living in New Mexico with a woman who worked for Frederick Zachs' company. The woman told police that she and Zachs had lived together for a year and a half when one day he gave her money for a plane ticket and disappeared.
Carone's identical twin brother, Michael, said Zachs' capture meant a lot to him.
"It certainly brings some closure," he said. "I don't think there will ever be total closure."
Michael Carone also said he will do everything he can to make sure Frederick Zachs serves at least some prison time. He said Zachs and his family have acted like they're above the law.
Addie Carone, who fought successfully to get the state legislature to ban appeal bonds for murder convicts, said her husband, Vince, died of lung cancer six weeks after their son was killed. She said she planned to visit their graves in New Haven this weekend.
"That's where I'm going to go," she said. "See Peter, see Vince, see my parents and tell them what happened today because we were all waiting for this."