BOSTON — When you talk about cold-blooded murder, it doesn't get more cold-blooded than what happened to Robert Natiello.
On January 20, 2003, in an alley off Washington Street in Haverhill, Robert's killer pointed a gun at Robert's forehead and pulled the trigger.
Robert died a few days later, but he never regained consciousness.
Recently, Robert's heartbroken mother, Camille Natiello, called me from her Bronx, New York home, asking me to cover Robert's story.
Camille is a very direct woman.
She did not hide the fact that her son was on the wrong path in life, that he was involved in crime, and had served time.
Camille told me, she tried to warn Robert, but he wouldn't listen.
"My son was a good person, " Camille told me. "I told him, these are not your friends, he said, 'don't worry, Ma."
Robert's sister, Lori Ann Beca, remembers her very last conversation with Robert.
"I said, what are you doing?" Lori Ann remembers telling Robert. "I don't want to bury my brother. If something happens to you, Mom and Dad will be devastated. He said, 'Don't jinx me.'"
To this day, Robert's family feels guilty that they couldn't stop Robert.
That's how much they love him and how much the pain of his murder still hurts.
But looking at the facts of this case, it's not likely there was anything Robert's family could have done to save him.
Investigators believe Robert Natiello, along with two associates from the Bronx, was in Haverhill to collect on a $90,000 drug debt.
One of the others, police believe, fronted a group based in Haverhill and Lawrence with a shipment of marijuana and he wanted his money.
Robert was there because he had a car.
It's not clear what exactly happened in that back alley or why.
I'm told Robert's group walked out of one of the buildings that overlook the alley.
As the group made its way back towards Robert's car, someone shot Robert just over his left eye.
I am told Robert was not the ring leader, and it's not clear why he was targeted for death.
I asked Essex County DA Jonathan Blodgett about this.
"When you're shot over your left eye, that's personal, face to face, " I said to DA Blodgett.
"We don't believe it was mistaken identity or a stray bullet. We believe all the parties knew each other," Blodgett told me.
In his world, Robert Natiello was known by his street name: White Boy.
It's likely that's how Robert's killer knew him.
But back in the Bronx, NY, Robert's family remembers a young man who worked hard at a local bakery, a young man who loved his family, who always went out of his way to help.
Robert Natiello was also a young man seduced by the fast life, and he paid the ultimate price for it.
Robert's sister, Carmella Pervizi, is frustrated Robert's killer is still on the streets.
"We just can't believe there were so many people there that witnessed this, and nobody has the goodness to say anything," Carmella said. "It's unbelievable, after all this time."
Robert's mother, Camille, did not walk away from her son in life, and she won't walk away from him in death.
"I hope to God I'll be able to get up (in court) and face that person that killed my son!" Camille told me.
If you know anything about the murder of Robert Natiello, AKA White Boy, call Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Essex County District Attorney's office at 978-745-8908.
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