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Hartford Courant from Hartford, Connecticut • 183

Publication:
Hartford Couranti
Location:
Hartford, Connecticut
Issue Date:
Page:
183
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

THE HARTFORD COURANT FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17,2004 B7 CONNECTICUT Parents Want Answers In Son's Death Highway By LYNNETUOHY COURANT STAFF WRITER Criticize Greenwich Investigation In Overdose suggested it was the powdered form of a tablet Cunningham said Megan had given Bria. "It was the last drug we did before we fell asleep," Cunningham told police. He left Bria's apartment the next morning Bria's body was found about 3 p.m. Bria's friend, Katie Hanscom, broke down when she was asked by police about what had transpired the evening of Jan. 15 and into the following morning.

"He took so many pills, so many pills," she said. The autopsy report indicates Bria died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine; any presence of Prozac or Clonezepam was not detected. "We are trying to determine what went on in that room through all those hours," Colucci added. "Nobody is willing to talk about what happened in that room. They all have what we call high-powered attorneys not allowing them to talk.

Caron did not give a police statement" Caron was the only visitor to Bria's home that night who refused to be interviewed by police. Her attorney, Eugene Riccio, said she was entirely within her right to do so. "She exercised her right not to discuss the matter with police," Riccio said. "I don't think any conclusion should be drawn here." At least initially, Greenwich police treated Bria's death as a criminal investigatioa On Jan. 21 five days after Bria died police executed a search warrant on Megan Caron's room.

"What we're asking for is not that difficult" John Bria said. "We have to find out" GREENWICH Eight months ago, 19-year-old John Bria died of a drug overdose in his bedroom, hours after a party at his home to which friends including the daughter of a prominent television and film director brought drugs and prescription pills, partygoers told police. The autopsy report said Bria overdosed on heroin and cocaine. Greenwich police closed their investigation three months later, with no arrests, and that's not sitting well with Bria's parents. "There was a crime committed.

Why were no arrests made?" John's father, John Bria asked during a press conference Thursday at his home. Peg Bria, the young man's mother, said police have given them reports with information edited out "We have a right to know all there is to know about how our son died," she said. The Brias have retained private investigator Vito Colucci attorney Joseph Colarusso and pathologist Michael Baden in an effort to persuade police to reopen the investigation, turn over complete police reports and disclose any other evidence they gathered. Greenwich Police Chief James Walters did not return a call seeking comment on the Brias' assertions. The Brias' call for "justice for Johnny" is against the backdrop of a wealthy town that has seen its share of unsolved and high-profile cases.

Police here have weathered a number of scathing attacks on their our person coming in a guy who's the top man in the country," Colucci said, referring to Baden. "All of Katznelson's medical findings we feel are null and void and we want them done again." According to police reports on the incident, drugs were in abundance at the small gathering of friends who had been buddies since high school Participants told police there were two $20 bags of cocaine. A bowl of marijuana dusted with cocaine was passed around. Prescription pills Prozac and Clonezepam, an antiseizure medication also were being handed around at the party, the report said. Jason Cunningham, a close friend of Bria's, told police that when he arrived at Bria's small apartment adjacent to his parents' house about midnight Bria told him he was "feeling really high from the pills that Megan had given him." Cunningham's reference was to Megan Caron, daughter of director Glenn Gordon Caron, creator of the 1985 series "Moonlighting," starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.

Cunningham told police he kept additional pills Caron had given Bria. "I was nervous because John had taken too many pills, so I put them in my pocket so John couldn't have them," the police report quotes Cunningham. Cunningham also told police that he and John snorted several lines of a powdered substance. Its description is redacted from the police reports, but earlier references competence and credibility. Chief among them is the 1975 bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in Belle Haven a killing that remained unsolved for nearly 25 years.

Kennedy cousin and Moxley neighbor Michael Skakel was convicted of her murder two years ago. Colucci, a former Stamford cop, is heading the efforts by Skakel's new defense team to prove his innocence. The disappearance and murder 20 years ago of 13-year-old Matthew Margolies also remains unsolved, amid allegations of a botched investigation. And the town earlier this year settled for $45 million a lawsuit brought by the widow of John Peters, who was shot at his home by a man who had repeatedly threatened him. As for firia's death: "In all my years as a police officer and doing private detective work, this is one of the worst investigations Tve ever seen," Colucci said.

"It's definitely a botched investigation. Arrests had to be made on this, not could have been made had to be made." Further fueling the Brias' discontent is the involvement in the investigation of a state medical examiner who has since been disgraced and retired Arkady Katz-nelson. He retired after admitting to accepting a $300 "fee" from a wealthy and influential Hartford-area family involved in a hotly contested criminal case and civil suit "Because of how Katznelson left, we want to start from square one again with Rell cally connected Tomasso Group, which is at the heart of a grand jury probe into bid-rigging allegations. The probe involves Rowland, who resigned in June. Rell said Thursday that she's looking to "retrofit" the training school to make it less like a jail and more like a home by expanding window sizes in rooms, adding lighting and desks and covering walls with colorful murals.

She said she did not know Thursday how much such changes wouldcost "It's a lot less expensive than tearing it down and starting all over," she said. Don DeVore, the national expert who was brought on as a consultant in June to oversee the overhaul and who was hired last month by DCF, called the physical changes a way of "softening up the correctional feeL" DeVore said there's a push to help DCF fulfill its mission of rehabilitating boys instead of just punishing them. He said a recent open house a first for the facility drew about 18 boys' families. They were able to eat dinner together, listen to music and review report cards. "The kids are just as proud of what's happening here as the staff is," DeVore said.

JL. CONTINUED FROM PAGE Bl In June, the DCF halted admissions to the correctional center as it worked to begin implementation of a plan to make it better and safer. The plan includes reducing the school's population, making physical changes to the facility, training staff in nonviolent intervention and improving programs that will help youths make the transition into the community. jThe $57 million training scjiool has been plagued with problems since shortly after it opened in summer 2001. Officials hailed it as state-of-the art, but the high-security, prison-like design and rush to construction have come under fire lately after several violent incidents were reported.

school was built as a replacement for outdated and unsafe Long Lane School in Mid-dletown. The contract was awarded on an emergency, no-bid basis after then-Gov. John G. Rowland declared a crisis in the state's juvenile justice system. The contractor was the politi CONTINUED FROM PAGE Bl tor to begin trial tests of new software at 13 garages a first -step to restarting the troubled program.

"Federal law requires Connecticut to have a vehicle emissions testing program to main-tain eligibility for nearly $100 million in certain highway funds," Rell said in a statement But the state is not in imminent danger of losing that money, Keazer and EPA officials said, when asked to clarify the consequences of a prolonged delay in testing. At most, the FHA could temporarily withhold highway money for certain new transportation projects until the state commits to a plan to resume testing. "There have been some situations where certain projects have been delayed, but it's rare," Keazer said. "As long as there's a reasonable assurance that the emissions program will resume, I wouldn't expect serious consequences." Rell already has given that assurance, saying she is committed to restarting an emissions program. The decision she will make after the software trials are completed is whether the state will continue to use its current contractor, Agbar Technologies, or seek "alternate vendors," she has said.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for Rell reiterated Thursday that the governor is "committed to emissions testing" and has conveyed that to federal officials. The state halted the testing program after audit findings that Agbar's program was riddled with technical problems that undermined test accuracy and integrity. Last week, state officials announced that seven garage inspectors faced arrest for fraudulently passing failing cars. In a recent letter to Rell Keazer said inaction on emissions testing could delay federal funding for two projects work on the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge over 1-95 in New Haven and on the Route 7 bypass in Brookfield. He said only those projects that would increase traffic volume would be affected; the FHA would not hold up funding for bridge repairs or other projects that would improve safety or air quality.

Despite the May warning from Varney, EPA officials acknowledged that it is unlikely Connecticut would lose highway funding. If the EPA were to impose formal sanctions on the state for failing to meet air-quality standards, the state would have two years to correct the deficiency before funding was revoked, the officials said. "Historically, there've been very few examples where a state has failed to rectify the situation within 18 months and where these sanctions go into place," said David Conroy, air programs manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in New England. After 18 months, the EPA can begin imposing strict emissions rules on states or regions that remain out of compliance.

All states are required to file detailed plans with the EPA to achieve clean-air standards. Since 1993, at least 29 states have been cited for failing to conform to those standards, leading to delays in their receiving highway funding, according to a 1999 report by the Congressional Research Service. While the EPA Issued more than 850 warnings of more serious sanctions to states and regions from 1990 to 1999, the agency took steps to revoke highway funding in only two of those cases, the report says. "The threat of imposing sanctions is often sufficient to prompt state action," the report concludes. State Sen.

Biagio "Billy" Ciot-to, DWethersfield, co-chairman of the legislature's transportation committee, said he has not made much of the warnings from the EPA and the state DEP. "I've never believed well actually lose money," he said. "It's not like we're getting rid of the (emissions program. If it's not Agbar, it'll be somebody else." Chris Cooper, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the agency believes Rell already has shown enough "intent" to resume an emissions program that the state will not lose highway money. ASSOCIATED PRESS JOSEPH MENGACCI, right, and his son, Adam, drive through a gate at the Middlebury home of Waterbury businessman Ralph Carpinella Thursday.

Carpinella hosted a "testimonial" to former Gov. John G. Rowland. Party For Rowland Draws Friends, Donations To Legal Defense Fund Funeral a legislative impeachment inquiry and a federal corruption investigation into alleged bid-rigging in his administration. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

More than $100,000 has been raised for Rowland's defense fund, but donations have dropped off since he resigned from office. Nathan Agostinelli, who coordinates donations for the fund, has estimated that Rowland has raised only $10,000 to $15,000 since resigning. In a plea for help, Rowland recently sent a letter to his closest friends and supporters. More than 30 cars pulled up the driveway to attend the affair, and many of the guests said they planned to donate money to Rowland, who has been trying to raise donations for his legal defense fund. Guests said several people stood to talk about their friendship with Rowland, and some praised his contributions to urban development particularly in Waterbury.

In brief remarks, Rowland thanked them for their words, talking about "faith, family and friendship." Rowland resigned July 1 amid Associated Press MIDDLEBURY A party billed as a testimonial to former Gov. John G. Rowland drew about 100 people Thursday night many of whom planned to contribute to the fallen Republican's legal defense fund. The private soiree was held at the Middlebury home of wealthy Waterbury businessman Ralph Carpinella, who said he was hosting the event as an act of friendship. "It's a testimonial" Carpinella said.

"He's been my friend for 28 years." CONTINUED FROM PAGE Bl college, Payne winced on her first day when she realized she got stuck with two roommates, not just one, and the top bilnk. But she soon adjusted, practicing jumps off her elevated, bunk, and engrossing herself in her art classes. Within a few days, she and her roommates were fast friends. nald's name or the other roommate, Libby. But he recalled Rachel "I remember Rachel," the boy said.

"Rachel the one with the eyes." Her new friends quickly dubbed Payne their "MIA" friend because she tended to wander off at parties. "It was like when a little kid you see a butterfly and wander off," McDonald said. "She'd walk around and see what was going on and walk back." "Rachel had so much unfinished business," Steven Stang, Payne's uncle, said in a eulogy. Stang said Payne would discuss future plans with her cousins. They would finish college, take a trip out west "They also needed to find husbands," he said, a comment met by laughter.

She was on a path, he said, "that would take her to a family ofherown." Cinema get the movies back on screea" Crown also has long-range plans for new programming that might include indie film mini-fests and a summer program for kids similar to the one offered at the company's Crown Palace 17 in Hartford. Crown Theatres operates seven other theaters in Connecticut as well as theater properties in New York, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida and Nevada. main the same and will be expanded "to include other items that might appeal to the art house crowd," Crown spokesman Jeremy Welman said. Cinema City's new operators have not introduced any plan to alter the theater's structure. "Clearly it's been such short notice," Welman said.

"We have nothing planned yet but we have lots of ideas. Our focus right now is to get the theater reopened and The trio explored campus. Went to parties. Her smile and eyes made an impression. 10ne male student in particu-lair was struck by Payne, recalled Christine McDonald, one of Payne's roommates.

iWhen McDonald ran into the young man on campus recently, CONTINUED FROM PAGE Bl these features can be found at www.crowntheatres.com. Crown has retained the existing Cinema City staff headed by general manager Joel Pell Fans of the Cinema City snack bar will be happy to hear the offerings re he; couldn't remember McDo Fairs Howe keting director, has been involved with the event for 25 years. She recalls the fair dealt well with Hurricane Floyd, and is well equipped to deal with whatever remains of Ivan. "Rainy days are some of the best days to attend the Big Tasslnarisaid. "We are a very large fair covering 175 acres.

A good deal of what we offer is under roofs. There is plenty to do Inside." Tassinarl pointed out the Big features permanent buildings, housing exhibits, concessions, places to eat animals, the circus and a horse show. Rain or shine, she said, the rock band Heart will perform Saturday at 8 p.m. Fairs are also on tap this weekend In Guilford, Somen and Orange. On Saturday.

Grange fairs are scheduled In Wallingford and Storrs. Manning said. "The kids were the ones who were going to suffer and that's something she would not permit" Assistant U.S. Attorney Kari Donley questioned Manning's assertion that I lowe saw no options. "Whether or not she saw options, we, as reasonably objective people, could see other options." Howe's daughters, now 18 and 19, are In college and did not attend the hearing.

But John Schulte did. He sat stoically through Manning's recitation of Howe's fear for her daughtera' safety. An older woman with him repeatedly whispered, "Are you sure you want to sit here and listen to thisr He left the courtroom, visibly agitated, after Manning played brief videotaped statements from both daughters expressing their love for their mother. I lowe remains free on bail until her voluntary surrender to prison officials Jan. 4.

protective orders, Manning said. "My motivation throughout was to protect my daughters," Howe, 49, sobbed as she addressed Burns. "At the time I couldn't see clearly and couldn't see any other route. I truly felt and know in my heart my daughtcn were In danger." Early on In their professional relationship, Manning said, Frankel made it clear to Howe that If she stopped working for him, he would stop paying the legal fees. "He held that over her head for years," Manning said.

Meanwhile, he said, Schulte continued to file lawsuits and routinely make harassing phone calls to her. "She certainly committed a crime," Manning said. "She did it in response to the threat that Schulte presented, and she continued to through the manipula-tlon and coercion by FrankeL "Frankel had her In a vise," CONTINUED FROM PAGE Bl Sandy Eggers, a 48-year-old Danielson resident la first vice president of the Association of Connecticut Fairs. She began her fair love affair as; a youngster in Brooklyn. Eggers said Connecticut fair-goers are a hardy breed not deterred by raindrops.

The fairs still go on," Eggers said. Once a year, you have your date and that is it A lot of fairs have tents and buildings. All of tlicexhibltswlllgoonandallthe cotmpetltions will go on." The Big which bills itself as the 10th largest fair in North America, today kicks off 17 days ofsighta, sounds and taste." JNoreon P. TassinarL the mar CONTINUED FROM PAGE Bl of a Swiss bank account Frankel used. She directed others Involved in the scheme to file false reports with state and federal regulatory agencies, and helped Frankel launder money through the acquisition of gold, diamonds, real estate and traveler's checks.

Howe was with Frankel throughout his fraudulent acquisition of a halfdozcn Insurance companies and the secret liquidation of their cash reserves. She was arrested in 2001. It was her ongoing legal battles to protect her daughtcn from Schulte, Manning said, that motivated her to help Frankel It was Frankel who paid nuro than In legal fees during a decade of litigation over custody and.

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