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By M. William Phelps
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2004 M. William Phelps
All rights reserved.
Early in the evening on March 10, 1994, Christine Roy indicated to her husband, Steven, that she was in the mood to go shopping. Christine's sister was getting married in a few months, and it was time, she insisted, they found her a gift.
"We've been putting it off long enough, Steven."
For seven years, the Roys had lived an unpretentious life in Uncasville, Connecticut, a postage-stamp-size rural community just north of New London. Today, Uncasville is the site of the Mohegan Sun, one of Connecticut's two casinos.
Already eight years into a successful career as an architect, Christine was comfortable with her life in suburbia: good job, nice home, loving husband, healthy child.
What more did she need?
At about 7:00 P.M., Christine and Steven loaded their three-year-old son, Brendan, into their car, and took off for the Bridal Mall, located in a small shopping center on the East Lyme–Niantic border, about a half hour's drive from Uncasville.
It was supposed to be just another casual trip to the mall.
Connecticut would suffer record snowfall amounts by the time the 1993 to 1994 winter was over — a total of eighty-three inches, the largest since record keeping had begun in the state back in 1905. Still, it wasn't snowfall amounts that had Connecticut residents on edge in 1994. The Victorian-like countryside and postcard ambiance of one of New England's crown jewels had been riddled with crime throughout the past twelve months. By year's end, there would be more than 214 murders, the most Connecticut had seen in the last thirty-five years. Seven out of every one hundred thousand residents would be murdered in some violent manner: shot, stabbed, run over, strangled, beaten, clubbed. People were talking about it all over the state: at the post office, general store, boat launches, PTA meetings, town council. Everywhere.
Murder and death.
It wasn't just happening in the more populated cities, like Hartford, New Haven or Bridgeport. The smaller towns — Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Waterford, Uncasville, Essex, Deep River, Ledyard — had all been touched in one way or another by murder.
These were quiet coastal towns. People left their doors unlocked overnight and wide open during hot and humid summer evenings. Neighbors borrowed sugar and eggs from one another. Murder rates this high were expected to the south, in New York and New Jersey.
But Connecticut? The Nutmeg State?
When Christine and Steven Roy left their Uncasville home, it had been cloudy, around fifty degrees. A slight drizzle had been falling. With any luck, they could get down to the Bridal Mall and back home inside of an hour and a half and put Brendan to bed on time.
Traveling south on Interstate 95, the main highway that runs from Florida to Boston, Massachusetts, snaking along the Connecticut coastline as it cuts through the southern part of the state, Steven pulled off the interstate and onto Exit 72, a half-mile stretch of road that connects I-95 to Route 156. The Bridal Mall was off to the left. At the bottom of the connector was Rocky Neck State Park Beach, one of the many sprawling public beaches along Connecticut's pristine coastline. Drive down Route 156 a bit and York Correctional Facility for Women is set back a short distance from the road, nearly in the backyard of the Lyme Tavern, a favorite local gin mill.
As the Roys approached the end of the exit, Christine noticed two cars off to the right side of the road. Through the foggy windshield, it looked to Christine as if both cars had just stopped for no apparent reason.
It was odd. There wasn't much of anything going on in East Lyme at any time of the day or night, let alone a rainy Thursday evening in March at 7:20 P.M.
"What's that?" Steven asked, driving slowly, pulling up about one hundred yards in back of where the cars were parked.
There was a small compact car — light in color, Christine remembered later — on the side of the road. In front of it, there was a beat-up 1981 Pontiac Firebird with the driver's-side door wide open, headlights on, just up ahead of the blue car.
"Looks like an accident," Christine said. "Pull up a bit closer, Steven. Hurry up."
Lying not too far away from the Pontiac Firebird, Christine noticed, was a male, perhaps in his early twenties. Skinny, but in good shape, he had short black hair, a lumberjack-type dress shirt, jeans, sneakers, no jacket — and lay on the road curled up in a fetal position as if he were asleep.
"It's odd," Christine said to Steven, "he's not moving. ..."
As they approached, Christine saw the taillights on the second car light up. She could see clearly that a "tall, lanky man" was driving the car.
As Steven began to pull over and stop, the man driving the blue car sped off. Christine later recalled it with the cliché: "Like a bat out of hell."
"Follow that car," Christine shouted. "He just hit that guy." She was frantic, pointing at the car. "Go, Steven. Go! What are you waiting for? ..."
"No way. I'm not following anybody."
"He just hit that guy, Steven — we need to get his license plate number!"
Steven later recalled that he "wasn't about to go chasing some maniac when I had my son in the backseat."
When they got closer to the Firebird, they could see that it had Maine license plates, with a cardboard temporary Connecticut license plate tucked in the back windshield, as if it were a For Sale sign. A car battery sat on the floorboard in back of the driver's seat. A baby seat sat empty in the passenger-side backseat.
Oddly, the car was still running.
As Steven called 911 from his cell phone, Christine approached the man lying in the road and immediately noticed a large pool of blood, about the size of a garbage can cover, underneath the man's head and shoulders.
Moving in for a closer look, she saw that the man's face was covered with blood.
Someone had to stay with Brendan. So when Steven stopped the car to let Christine out, she ran toward the man, thinking he was still alive and in need of immediate help.
At 7:23 P.M., Steven got through to 911. Unbeknownst to him, someone else had already phoned it in a few minutes earlier.
A second car had since pulled off to the shoulder, and the driver, a woman in her midthirties, got out of her car and began walking toward Christine, who was now standing over the man staring down at him.
After a moment, Christine leaned down and, with her right hand, pushed the locks of her long brown hair over and around her ears so she could go in for a closer look without saturating her hair with the man's blood.
"My husband's calling 911," Christine said to the woman.
They couldn't see the man's face. Or tell if he was breathing. Nonetheless, he was lying still as a brick, on his side, eyes closed, with a large pool of blood around his head, which, they assumed, had leaked out of his ear.
Christine wanted to touch him, feel for a pulse, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. "I had never seen a body like that before," she recalled. "I was horrified and confused."
"What happened?" the woman asked Christine.
"I don't know."
Again leaning over the man, staring at him, wanting to poke and prod him as if he were a cat or a dog that had been struck by a car, Christine said as loud as she could, "Hello? Can you hear me?"
The women then looked at each other and shrugged.
A moment later, Christine stood up. Looking at the idling Pontiac Firebird, its driver's-side door wide open, its headlights still on, she began to speculate about what had happened: The guy had had some type of aneurysm while driving, became disoriented, pulled over, got out of his car and, while walking into the road to flag someone down for help, keeled over. No. He wasn't dead. He was just in shock! But what about the car that had sped away as we pulled up? A hit-and-run?
It was almost 7:45 P.M. now, and the connector was beginning to jam up with cars that had pulled over to see what was going on. Within moments, a man got out of his car and ran up to where Christine and the other woman were standing. Looking at both women, he asked, "Did one of you hit him?"
"No," they both said.
"I'm an EMT," the man then said.
"Good! Can you do CPR or something on the guy?" Christine suggested.
The EMT looked down at the man. All that blood. He wasn't moving. All that blood. "No way. There's no way I'm doing that."
You bastard. You are not going to do CPR? Christine thought, but didn't say anything.
Steven then ran up, leaned down, and began touching the man. "At that point, he was still warm," Steven said later.
The mild weather throughout the day had given way to more seasonal temperatures as the evening progressed. With the man's body still warm, they agreed that whatever had happened must have just occurred.
"It looked like he had pulled over, stumbled a step or two and just fell down where he was."
Steven wasn't going to waste precious time. He and the EMT bent down and rolled the man over. Christine, by this point, had gone back to the car to stay with Brendan.
Almost instantly, after turning him faceup, Steven and the EMT could see the source of all the blood: it had run out of his nose, ears and mouth. Upon further examination, they could tell he wasn't breathing. There also appeared to be an imprint of tire tracks on his pant legs, Steven later recalled.
"He looks to be in his twenties," one of them said, checking to see if he had a pulse. "He's dead."
By this time, Joe Dunn, a local cop from the East Lyme Police Department, who had gotten called by dispatch at around 7:30 P.M., and had been only about a mile and a half away, barreled up to the scene and parked his cruiser in front of the body, blocking it so no one would mistakenly drive over it. It was dark. With the thick and dense woods on each side of the road, the connector ran through what amounted to a tunnel of trees. Some frustrated driver, late for a date or just having a fit of road rage, might try to whisk past the scene and end up either hitting someone who was standing around or running over the body.
Detective Mike Foley, of the Eastern District Major Crime Squad (ED-MCS), in Norwich, Connecticut, had always been a "detailed" and careful cop. Balding, with a thin, pencillike mustache, Foley was often teased by other detectives because he looked so quintessentially Irish. Richard "Reggie" Wardell, a colleague of Foley's, had been with the Connecticut State Police since 1975. Besides being quite a bit taller, Wardell could have doubled for actor Joe Pesci — right down to his brushed-back haircut, mannerisms and the way he talked with his hands. Wardell had been raised in New Jersey and, after being denied a position with the Pennsylvania State Police because of affirmative action, got a job with the Connecticut State Police.
Foley, Wardell and Detective Peter Cleary, who worked for the Crime Scene Unit of the state police, had gone out for pizza at a local East Lyme restaurant only about a mile from the Rocky Neck connector. It was about 7:30 P.M. when they arrived. They all had the following day off. A fellow colleague, Donny Richardson, who had stopped by to say hi on his way home, but had since left, returned only minutes later.
He had a surprised look on his face ... You guys actually think you're going to have the night off?
"There's a body up on the highway," Richardson said. He had just taken the call in his cruiser.
"You have to be kidding me?" Wardell balked.
"You're foolin' with us, Donny, right?" Foley said.
No sooner had Richardson spoken, when all of their pagers went off.
Mike Foley then made the call into dispatch. "Get to that scene," the dispatcher ordered.
"The crime scene van is in Colchester, though," Foley said. Colchester was about an hour away. They were only minutes away from the connector.
"Get to that scene! We'll have someone pick up the van and bring it over."
The first thing Officer Joe Dunn did when he got to the scene was check for "responsiveness by attempting to establish an airway." But the man's mouth, Dunn noticed, was full of blood. Getting air into his lungs would be impossible.
Dunn then realized that the man's shirt was also covered with blood, so he ripped it open to see if he could find out what had happened.
Just then, Dunn realized that it had not been a hit and run — at least not in a conventional sense — as so many combing the scene had been suggesting. There were two small holes, clearly visible to Dunn, in the man's chest: one above his left nipple, the other near his armpit on the same side. There was no blood in or around the holes; they looked like tiny moon craters, as if someone had poked the man with an ice pick or something sharp and round.
Dunn knew from experience that they weren't stab wounds. By the looks of it, someone had shot the man. And they weren't close-range wounds, either; he had apparently been hit from afar. Close-range wounds leave starlike marks — like a balloon knot — on the skin around the wound. Gases from the weapon char and tear the skin apart.
Looking more closely at the man's face, Dunn noticed something else — he recognized the man. It was Anson "Buzz" Clinton, a local "hustler" in town Dunn had had some contact with on several occasions.
"I had dealt with him ... in the past regarding domestic disturbances. And had also seen him several times in local drinking establishments," Dunn later said.
On January 7, 1994, only two months before Buzz Clinton was found dead, he and his family celebrated his twenty-eighth birthday. They were all looking forward to where Buzz's life was heading. A rather popular guy in the Old Lyme–East Lyme area, Buzz had the build of a featherweight boxer: lean, cut, muscular. Whether from genetics or the hours of hard manual labor he had done throughout his short life, Buzz could eat all day long and retain his bodybuilder shape without worry. One of the stars of his high-school wrestling and gymnastics teams, quite striking in his pretty-boy manner, Buzz had an uncanny likeness to pop sensation Ricky Martin, back when Martin was fronting the boy band Menudo as a teenager.
With his feathered-back dark brown hair and blue eyes, Buzz had no trouble getting the ladies. But he also had a reputation in some crowds for being a troublemaker. Buzz was always looking to cut a deal to make some money on the side, former friends recalled. Married for a second time when he was murdered, his first marriage lasted only about a month, and, some claimed, was rife with dysfunction, drug and alcohol abuse and violence.CHAPTER 2
Officer Joe Dunn, now standing over Buzz's body staring at his blood-drenched face, had spoken with Buzz back in January, only weeks ago. Buzz had been drinking. He'd been fighting with his wife, the former Kim Carpenter, and her family over custody of Rebecca, Kim's daughter from a previous relationship. Kim's sister, Beth Ann Carpenter, was an elegant and beautiful lawyer. In her own right, she seemed to be a beacon of sanity during a situation that had gotten completely out of hand. Beth Ann had helped her mother, Cynthia, wage a savage battle for custody of Rebecca back in 1991. When Buzz met Kim in 1992, he had become entangled in the custody fight. There had been countless court battles. Custody had been granted to the elder Carpenters and then returned back to Kim Clinton. By the beginning of 1994, with Buzz threatening to take Rebecca and Kim and move cross-country, Rebecca's grandfather Richard "Dick" Carpenter and Buzz had been arguing and fighting fiercely just about every time they ran into each other.
One night, Buzz called the East Lyme Police Department in a fury. Joe Dunn had taken the call.
"I'm living in town in an apartment ...," Buzz said, his voice wrought with rage and alcohol. "I haven't gotten along well with my father-in-law."
"Go on. What's the problem?"
"My father-in-law, Dick Carpenter, and I have cross complaints against each other filed at the Old Lyme Police Department. He came over here tonight. I told him to leave."
"Yes, but ... I want him arrested and a restraining order placed against him."
Dunn then explained to Buzz that no crime had been committed.
"He hasn't trespassed —"
But Buzz interrupted and became angrier, Dunn recalled later. Then Buzz began to shout.
"If the feud continues," he said clearly, "one of us will end up dead. And if I end up dead, you'll know who did it!"
"You should file a restraining order against him, Mr. Clinton. But you have to do that through the courts, not us."
"Maybe I'll kill him first and end the problem," Buzz said before hanging up.
On two separate occasions, Joe Dunn had either arrested Buzz or participated in the arrest. Both instances involved domestic disputes, either between Buzz and his wife, Kim, or Buzz and his in-laws.
The day after Buzz had made that rather threatening phone call to Joe Dunn, he called back. Sober now, he wanted to explain himself, saying how he felt bad about the previous night's call. He had been drinking, he explained. He was fed up. Things were getting out of hand with his in-laws.
"It's because of my wife," Buzz said, "that [the Carpenters and I] don't get along."
Excerpted from Lethal Guardian by M. William Phelps. Copyright © 2004 M. William Phelps. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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