Comment: Easy to check

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Easy to check

It doesn't make much sense that they would do something like this. There are far less traceable ways to accomplish the same thing. So I went looking.

The OP article links to what is apparently the original source of the story:
http://www.dcclothesline.com/2014/02/14/strange-purchase-dat...
Looking at some of the actual data, what stands out immediately is that the sale at $0 was *to the same owners* as before that date. I.e.:

Sold to Brian Engel & Shannon Merlino on 12/25/2009 for $0
Sold to Brian Engel & Shannon Merlino on 6/25/2004 for $272,00

It's not much of a "christmas present" if it's the same people's home before and after the "sale."

Fishy thing number two was that the guy says he made a list of the addresses of the people involved (parents of victims, etc.) and checked those. But why check just the homes for the people involved? What about the other homes in the area?

Put any fragment of a name in that search box here: http://data.visionappraisal.com/NewtownCT/search.asp
and you'll get a page of addresses. Click on "View this property" for any of them you want. I entered "Dog" in the search box, got some houses on Dogwood Terrace. Clicked three at random: all three had sales at $0 on 12/25/2009. I took twenty addresses from twenty different streets that started with "S" and fourteen out of twenty had a sale at $0 on 12/25/2009. I did several other random searches, dozens of other addresses, and all with similar results.

In fact the web page from the original source has the most plausible answer already:

An administrative assistant at the Assessor’s Office, Andrea Santillo, promptly returned my phone call. She said that the Newtown city government recently had switched to a new computer system and had not been able to enter the property data for all Newtown homes. So the computer used the 12/25/2009 and $0 as, respectively, a “filler” default sale date and price.

When it's a very large percentage of the whole town, database filler is a very plausible explanation.