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Handyman pleads guilty to 1998 East Hampton cold case

EAST HAMPTON — The suspect in a nearly 20-year-old cold case in East Hampton, Connecticut pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday in Middlesex Superior Court.

Gerald Brian Tuttle

Gerald Brian Tuttle. (Courtesy of Myrtle Beach Police Department)

Gertrude Ochankowski, a 60-year-old home health aide, was found dead in a stream off Tartia Road in East Hampton in 1998.

Gerald Brian Tuttle pleaded guilty Tuesday under the Alford doctrine to manslaughter and kidnapping charges. Under the plea, Tuttle is not admitting guilt but acknowledges the state probably has enough evidence to convict him.

It wasn’t until December of 2013, that police made an arrest in the case. Gerald Brian Tuttle, 53, was taken into custody in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He was arrested at a home in Surfside Beach, S.C. and held as a fugitive from justice.

Connecticut authorities charged Tuttle with murder extradited him.

East Hampton and state police investigated Ochankowski’s killing, but the case went cold. The state had offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for Ochankowski’s death, and in 2008 increased the reward to $50,000.

In 2008, police said they had a suspect, but did not have enough information to charge him.

Ochankowski was reported missing Jan. 11, 1998, the same day her body was found. Her car was found outside a laundromat at 82 Main Street. The medical examiner determined that she’d been strangled. Tuttle lived above the laundromat at the time and had a rape conviction on his record.

Tuttle will be sentenced on December 6.