Victim dies from beating

Suspects now face a homicide probe in north area assault.

06/30/2007 12:00 AM

07/27/2007 3:47 AM

For more than a month, the family of Joseph Dutt had watched and waited and prayed that the Sacramento man would wake up.

But on Friday, his father said he held onto his son's limp hand as doctors pulled the plug, a final act that officially launched a homicide investigation over how the life of a 22-year-old man came to a violent end.

Dutt was beaten severely on May 20 outside the International House of Pancakes on Northgate Boulevard, just days after an apparent argument with a co-worker at Quest Diagnostics, a medical lab testing center up the street, said Officer Michelle Lazark, police spokeswoman.

"It stemmed from the fact that he had this beef," Lazark said. But, "it's still unclear."

In the days after the attack, police arrested 19-year-old Mateitalo Fifita, his girlfriend, Stephanie Moran, 21, and her older sister, Yvette Moran, 34, on suspicion of attempted murder. All three face charges of murder at a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday.

Lazark said Yvette Moran and Fifita had planned to confront Dutt in the parking lot outside the restaurant they knew he frequented -- "almost like premeditation" -- after learning of an argument Dutt had earlier with Stephanie Moran in the parking lot at work.

It appeared that Dutt had been driving erratically, and Moran felt threatened, Lazark said, leading to an exchange of words that apparently brought more violence.

It was not clear if any other employees or supervisors at Quest Diagnostics were aware of the confrontation between Dutt and Moran, or what kind of working relationship had existed between the two. Calls to the Northgate Boulevard facility were referred to corporate headquarters in New Jersey, and were not returned.

At Dutt's south Sacramento home Friday, his father, Jacob Dutt, said relatives were preparing for a funeral. For more than four weeks, he had held a vigil at his son's bedside at Kaiser Permanente, praying he would come through. Two weeks ago, the father said he saw a glimmer of hope when Dutt breathed, just for a short while, on his own.

"We were thinking he could be OK," the elder Dutt said. "My boy was a good boy.

"I don't want any family to go through this."

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