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BENNINGTON — A Bennington man has been charged with assaulting another man who was later found dead outside a downtown building. Authorities have not yet ruled whether the assault contributed to his death.

Joseph Cattani, 38, pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault, which authorities say was committed against Christopher Sharby, 46, on Sept. 4.

The following day, Sharby was found dead behind the building of the nonprofit organization Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, according to court documents. He had gone to sleep in that location at 121 Depot St. and didn’t wake up.

Sharby’s preliminary death certificate shows he died from “subdural hematoma” due to “blunt force trauma of head.” This injury is a type of bleeding that occurs within the skull but outside the brain tissue.

How he got injured is listed as unknown. Whether Sharby’s death was caused by someone or another manner entirely is “pending investigation,” reads a copy of his death certificate that the Banner obtained Thursday.

Bennington police said a medical examiner found that Sharby died from an injury sustained five to seven days earlier. The doctor wasn’t able to determine during Sharby’s preliminary autopsy if the assault by Cattani “exacerbated his death,” according to a sworn statement by Detective Sgt. Chris Lauzon.

The death certificate and court documents provide the first public details on Sharby’s death.

DETAILS FROM COURT DOCUMENTS

Bennington police detective Lauzon’s sworn statement, obtained from the Superior Court, shows that Cattani admitted kicking Sharby in the thigh and punching him in the face/chin area on Sept. 4. This supposedly occurred somewhere between the GBICS building and a nearby Shell gas station.

Cattani said that that afternoon, Sharby put his hands on Cattani’s girlfriend in an “obscene manner,” which upset him. The men reconciled after the fight, Cattani told the investigator in an interview Sept. 9.

A witness reported seeing Cattani kick Sharby in the leg, which caused him to fall, and punch Sharby about four times while he was on the ground. Cattani then struck Sharby with a backpack twice, the witness said. The witness told Lauzon that Sharby appeared drunk.  

Cattani had acknowledged drinking that day and said Sharby had been on some form of medication.

Police said Cattani was arrested Sept. 17. His charge of aggravated assault is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

He is free from jail on conditions and is due back in court Nov. 20. He is represented by defense attorney Rick Burgoon.

Sharby’s acquaintances told police that shortly before Sharby was found unresponsive behind the GBICS building, he was snoring loudly then suddenly stopped. A man talked about conducting CPR on Sharby while a woman called 911. That was around 4 a.m. of Sept. 5.

LOCAL COMMUNITYGBICS Executive Director Scott Winslow said the organization’s privacy policy prevents him from disclosing whether Sharby had been a client, but that they were “saddened” to learn of his death. Winslow said they heard about it from people in the neighborhood and then the police.

Because of GBICS’s work as well as its location, Winslow said they’re aware of the homelessness problem in Bennington and are working with housing agencies to assist people who are homeless.

The organization, he said, does its best to help people in poverty through its core services of medical care, and food and financial assistance.

Sharby, who was born in Florida, was a graduate of Mount Anthony Union High School, according to his obituary. He had worked at the Dailey company, located in Shaftsbury, and Mack Molding, in Arlington.

At the time of his death, Sharby had a disability and was unable to work, his death certificate indicates.

He was apparently a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and the Grateful Dead band, and enjoyed skateboarding, snowboarding and listening to music.

His survivors include three children and siblings in Bennington, New York and Massachusetts.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or

@tiffgtan on Twitter.


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