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Hartford Courant from Hartford, Connecticut • Page 7

Publication:
Hartford Couranti
Location:
Hartford, Connecticut
Issue Date:
Page:
7
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

Monday, July 12, 1999 THE HARTFORD COURANT A7 From Page One Grant's Quie Life Jolte DNA Evidence 4 1' I 1 Mr ,4 '-Sty ftm Continued from Page 1 "He's a guy plucked out of his life situation into the middle of this high-profile crime that he knows nothing about," said his lawyer, Thomas Ullmann, the New Haven chief public defender. "It seems they can't even put him in New Haven the day she was murdered." Yet records show the two could have crossed paths in 1972, a year before the killing. And a police report paints Grant as a man capable of violence. A 1994 arrest in Waterbury -Grant's only criminal record -came after he allegedly tried to choke a former girlfriend. When police came to arrest him, Grant told police it was OK because "that bitch will be dead by the end of the week." Looking For A Link Neighbors describe Grant as a quiet man who liked to hunt and fish on the family's 3-acre property in Newbury, Vt.

He sometimes bought ice cream for neighborhood children, and he often offered to fix the cars of his friends and neighbors. Cars have been the constant in his life. In July 1973, the month Ser-ra was killed, Grant was working JOANNE HOYOUNG LEE THE HARTFORD COURANT JACK REID, 15, of Glastonbury, skateboards in the park at Portland High School in Portland. He is involved in trying to get a skateboard park built in Glastonbury. Teens Pushing For Skate Parks He was scheduled to wed Veronica Czarniewski on New Year's Day, but the ceremony was postponed.

The resulting fallout led to yearlong problems between the couple. Three days after the wedding was postponed, Grant and Czarniewski had an argument at the auto body shop where Grant was working. Grant grabbed her by the head and smashed her face against his knee, breaking her nose, according to court documents. Both Grant and Czarniewski were arrested by Wolcott police after that incident. The charges against Czarniewski were not pursued by prosecutors, and the charges were dismissed against Grant Wolcott police said.

Three weeks later there was a second confrontation in which Grant allegedly struck her again at the same location. No one was arrested, but Czarniewski filed a lawsuit against Grant accusing him of assault and battery and negligence. On July 30, 1994, the day the lawsuit was served, Grant attacked her again, according to a Waterbury police report Czarniewski came, home from work shortly after midnight to find Grant waiting for her. He confronted her about the lawsuit and when she turned to walk away, he grabbed her by the throat and started choking her, the police report said. Czarniewski escaped by kicking Grant in the leg, running to her car and driving away.

When police went to Grant's house to question him about the incident he didn't deny choking her, the report said. As the officer placed him under arrest Grant made the threat against Czarniewski's life. Grant was charged with third-degree assault a charge that was later reduced to breach of peace. He paid a $60 fine. Grant also was charged in September with violating a restraining order and paid another $60 fine for that charge.

Czarniewski eventually settled her lawsuit with Grant She claimed $26,262 in medical bills and lost wages from the attacks by Grant Czarniewski wouldn't comment for this story. Ullmann called the arrest a "minor incident" that occurred at the end of their breakup. "There is little or no relevance of an alleged incident in 1994 of which there is no record of a conviction in describing the character of a person accused of a crime in 1973," Ullmann said. the problems in our town with skateboards, and it is a safe, controlled atmosphere," Kalinowski said. Bill DeMaio, recreation superintendent in New Britain, said problems with skateboarding helped jump-start plans for a park that will open next spring or summer.

"We had kids coming to us saying, 'Hey, there's no place for us to and we had parents asking why we had Little League fields but no skate parks," DeMaio said. Though they vary in size, cost and construction materials, the parks usually contain concrete or wooden ramps and ledges and metal railings mounted close to the ground on which skaters practice tricks. Often, as in Somers, they are built over tennis courts or other existing structures that are no longer widely used. Officials and potential private sponsors in some towns have been reluctant to set up skateboard parks because of concerns about liability and insurance costs. In Manchester, the board of directors has twice left money for a skateboard park out of the budget and last summer, the Rotary Club in Somers decided not to help fund the park there, citing potential liability and maintenance costs.

But supporters say those are poor excuses for not building the parks. "That's nonsense when they tell you that" Kalinowski said, adding that Portland's insurance cost was some new friends and get some exercise," said Dan Pendergraph, 11, a student at Bennet Middle School in Manchester who has distributed surveys to area students for a committee created to determine the level of community interest in a park. Phillips H. Roland, a Somers selectman who helped organize local youngsters' bid for a skateboard park, said municipal officials need to realize that skateboarding is not likely to disappear. "Sports in America are changing," Roland said.

"When I was a kid, I looked forward to going to baseball games with my father. Now, in the '90s, kids are watching ESPN2 and the X-Games," a series of competitions involving alternative athletics like skateboarding, inline skating and biking. "Generationally speaking, this is forcing towns to take another, look at what they're offering recreation-ally for sports," Roland said. And prompted by skateboarders hungry for recognition, many towns are reevaluating their recreation activities. "We needed to look at other sports," said Portland First Selectman Ed Kalinowski.

"Why shouldn't a municipality provide for another function? Not everyone is into softbalL" By building a $14,000 skateboard park, Kalinowski said, his town has moved most skateboarders off the street and forestalled much of the damage they do to public property. "It has curbed about 95 percent of Continued from Page 1 his freshman year at Manchester High School. "I just wanted to have someplace to go," said Matt Snyder, 18, a recent Portland High School graduate who got the park set up in Portland with the help of friend Patrick Green, 17, and local officials. But youngsters who want skateboarding's equivalent of a baseball field or basketball court have the sometimes difficult task of convincing their elders that skating deserves the same treatment given to mainstream sports. "It can really help with self-esteem," said Ben Custin, 16, who completed his sophomore year at Somers High School.

"For kids who feel like they can't make sports teams, it shows they can do something." Advocates say skateboarding is a way to connect with teens who have no interest in the more traditional sports. "I think it gives a whole group of kids who didn't like those sports or didn't like the structure of team sports another avenue to explore," said Mark Philhower, planning and zoning chairman in East Hampton and father of two skateboarders. Without the benefit of town funds, Philhower organized a volunteer effort among local youngsters to raise money for a skateboard park. "Some kids kind of get left out if they're not in Little League or basketball, and this is a chance to make i not affected by opening the skateboard park. "To me, that's just a way of not doing it" Towns with skate parks usually have rules requiring skaters to wear helmets and pads, and some, like Somers, require youngsters and their parents to sign a waiver.

"There's liability for everything. When you build stuff for other-sports, there's liability for that too'," Paternostro said. Though costs vary between insurance companies, liability for ice hockey, soccer, football and baseball can be greater than the liability for skateboarding, said Chris Silver, Manchester's recreation supervisor. "Look at the inherent risk of not building a park," Silver said. "These kids' are on streets and sidewalks, and somebody could get killed." In many towns, including East Hampton, Portland, Somers and Suffield, skateboarders were responsible for designing the parks, as well as presenting their plans to local boards and commissions.

Skaters help to maintain the finished products, too. Local officials say involving youths in the planning stages is also a great civics lesson. "It's getting the young people involved with the town, seeing how the process works," said Kalinowski, who made sure that skateboarders did most of the Portland park's design work. crats. Democrats are scornful of the maneuver.

In any case, they insist they still will have ample opportunity to force Republicans to take a stand on key elements of the Democratic bill These include provisions that say doctors, not HMOs or insurers, should decide what treatments are medically necessary, that patients should have easier access to emergency rooms and specialists and, most importantly, that patients should be allowed to sue health plans in disputes over coverage decisions. Virtually no one expects the Democrats to prevail on the right-to-sue issue, but other Democratic provisions could win majority votes, said Dave Hebert, head of a coalition pushing patient-protection legislation. The real drama will come Thursday, when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, exercises his right to offer the last amendment Much will depend on where the debate stands at that point said Jack Ericksen, director of congressional relations at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. If the Republican position has prevailed throughout, Lott will have no incentive to include any of the Democratic provisions. In that case, he likely will offer the narrower Republican alternative.

But if the Democrats have scored some victories with significant Republican support, Lott could be in a tougher position. Debate Could Alter Health Care Policy for his father's garage, Midway Au-tobody, and helping his first wife, Dorothy, raise their two young children, Tara and Edward Jr. When investigators first approached Grant in September 1997 he told them he had never, heard of Penney Serra or her father, John, who ran his own garage in New Haven. Grant's arrest affidavit, in fact, lacks any strong link between the two or any motive for the killing. Investigators were only able to place Grant in the general New Haven area within one month of the killing.

At the time, Grant was receiving outpatient treatment at the West Haven Veterans Administration Hospital He had suffered severe head injuries in an automobile accident while on a National Guard training exercise in 1964. Penney Serra, a 21-year-old dental hygienist, had been to the West Haven VA Hospital, too. Time sheets Serra filled out while in the dental assistant program at a local technical school show that she worked at the hospital for at least three weeks in 1972. Grant has told investigators he has suffered from memory loss after "four plates" were inserted in his skull following the National Guard accident Yet friends who knew him back in 1973 were surprised to hear that he suffered from blackouts or memory loss. "I never heard him say anything about blacking out or saw him have any problems," said Michael Wil-kowski, owner of Stanley's Auto Body in Waterbury.

Wilkowski and Grant were both active in the Waterbury Autobody Association that Grant's father, Edward helped form They attended dances and drank together, although Wilkowski described Grant as a light drinker who preferred to talk auto parts than dance or socialize. In the late 1970s, Grant took over his father's business. He had little success, and his father was forced to come out of retirement and retake control of the business, Wilkowski said. The garage closed for good within a few years. "Eddie Jr.

just fell off the face of the earth. I don't know what happened to him," Wilkowski said. Grant never left the auto body business entirely. But instead of working for his family, he slipped into the underbelly of the business, working for other garages or renting space to work on his own. In 1979, his first wife, Dorothy, divorced him after 15 years of marriage.

She and daughter Tara, now 29, live in Florida Dorothy Grant declined to comment on her former husband's arrest when reached in Florida, but Tara did travel to Connecticut for her father's court appearance last week. Grant remarried in May 1981 to Joann Darigis, a union that lasted four years. She, too, declined to comment. A Violent Side In 1994, Grant came close to remarrying again. Resolved For A Fight But the fight with Czarniewski did lead investigators to Grant Because his fingerprints were in a state police database from that arrest experts say they were able to match his print to one found on a bloody tissue box inside Serra's car.

Subsequent DNA tests revealed there is a l-in-879 million chance, prosecutors say, that blood found on a pink tissue inside Serra's car is not Grant's. And that brought them to Grant's home on June 28. When investigators from Chief State's Attorney John Bailey's office came to arrest Grant he was in the driveway doing what he has been doing for more than 30 years -working on a car. Grant asked his wife, Linda, for a sip of water and went quietly with investigators. "I think he was shocked that they arrested him," Ullmann said.

Since the arrest Grant's family has received hundreds of letters of support from people who know him or the family, Ullmann said. Most of them say they were surprised Grant's name has been linked to a killing. Ullmann plans to present some of the letters to a judge when he requests a reduction in Grant's $500,000 cash bail Grant looked stunned as newspaper and television cameras recorded his arrest and first court appearance. He is resolved for a long fight Ullmann said. "As much as they made a big deal out of parading Mr.

Grant in front of the cameras and taking credit for 'solving' the Penney Serra case," Ullmann said, "I wouldn't put my money in the bank just yet that there will be a conviction." Courant Staff Writer David A. Owens contributed to this story. cent or about $200 over five years for an insured family. By contrast, the Republican measure would cost 0.8 percent or about $40 over five years for a family, according to the Congressional Budget Office. While Democrats have been dogged in pushing the issue, their allies have not come close to the business groups in money or organizing.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said his and other patient advocacy groups are making a low-budget push for the Democratic leg-islatioa This week, Democrats plan to operate a Capitol Hill phone bank -they call it "the intensive care unit" where senators can spread their message on talk radio and other programs. And the American Medical Association will run a $200,000 advertising campaign and send members to Washington to call on wavering senators. The AMA has not specifically endorsed the Democratic legislation, but former President Nancy W. Dickey called the Republican version weak in important areas. The debate will begin this afternoon, when Republicans will call up the Democratic bill, which they rejected on a party-line vote in committee in March.

Republicans have not had a sudden change of heart, but they decided the unusual maneuver would give them a tactical advantage. Republicans had been dreading the prospect of having to defend their bill from a series of Democratic attacks. Now they think they have turned the tables on the Demo "extremist anti-managed care legislation." The latest round of spending comes on top of $2 million business groups put into earlier advertising efforts, but does not compare to the $14 million the Health Insurance Association of America, a trade group, lavished on its monumental 1994 campaign to block Clinton's health care overhaul. This year, the fight is being coordinated by the 37-member Health Benefits Coalition, which includes the insurance association, Aetna U.S. Healthcare, CIGNA other insurers and HMOs, and a who's who of powerful Washington groups: the U.S.

Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and the federation of business. "The Senate should focus on expanding coverage and lowering health care costs rather than passing legislation that leads to more health care costs and richer trial lawyers," said Dan Danner, coalition chairman. "The only good news about Ted Kennedy's so-called Patients' Bill of Rights is that it hasn't passed yet" Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, comes up often in coalition ads as it tries to attach the name of the Senate's best-known liberal to the Democratic plan.

The hope is to rekindle the anti-government sentiment that torpedoed Clinton's 1994 proposal, which Kennedy also backed. The ads also focus on the cost of the Democratic measure, 4.8 per Continued from Page 1 Many analysts predict that by the end of the debate on Thursday Republicans, who hold a 5545 Senate majority, will pass their measure with perhaps several less-controversial provisions from the Democratic bill tacked on. But they also say there could be some very tight votes. "It's too close to calL" Victoria Caldeira, manager of legislative affairs at the National Federation of Independent Business, said of prospects in the Senate. A House debate remains unscheduled.

The stakes are large. Patients could come away with a single set of federal consumer protection standards, replacing a patchwork of state regulations that do not cover millions of insured people. But some say the combination of higher costs and increased regulation could slowly unravel the system of managed care that has come to dominate health care over the last decade. While senators were home for the July Fourth recess last week, the business groups spent $750,000 on radio and television advertising and grass-roots lobbying to oppose the Democratic version of legislation known as the Patients' Bill of Rights. It is the most the groups have invested in an ad blitz since they organized more than 18 months ago.

Separately, health maintenance organizations began a multimillion-dollar advertising and organizing campaign against, what they call.

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