The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

A Cover-Up in Connecticut?

Posted on | September 26, 2017 | Comments Off on A Cover-Up in Connecticut?

Tommy Stuart (left); Hal Yocher (right).

In the pre-dawn hours of a Wednesday morning, 39-year-old James Thomas “Tommy” Stuart III was hanging out with a friend named Renee in his third-floor apartment in Waterbury, Connecticut. They had a few drinks and were talking when suddenly an armed man kicked in the apartment door. Brandishing a pistol, the gunman shouted at Renee: “Leave now!” She ran for her life and scrambled down the stairway.

Before she reached the ground floor, Renee heard multiple gunshots from the apartment. Tommy Stuart was shot in the abdomen and then in the face, killed instantly. The gunman then went down to the yard behind the apartment on Marion Avenue and shot himself in the head.

He was an off-duty Waterbury policeman.

Officer Hallock “Hal” Yocher, 37, was an Iraq war veteran who had been on the Waterbury police force for 10 years. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and, according to a source familiar with the July 2016 murder-suicide case, Yocher had threatened suicide just weeks earlier.

More importantly, however, Yocher had a history of domestic violence. He lived in Naugatuck, the town next to Waterbury, and his neighbors there had reportedly called police about disturbances at the home where Yocher lived with his wife and children. Yet it appears that Yocher’s status as a policeman protected him from being arrested. And under a Connecticut law, passed just two months before the murder of Tommy Stuart, police were required to seize any firearms in the possession of a domestic abuse suspect. Yocher still had his guns, however, including the semiautomatic pistol he used to kill Tommy Stuart before killing himself.

The motive for Yocher’s crime? Jealousy.

Before their 2006 marriage, Yocher’s wife had once dated Stuart, according to a source familiar with the case. Three months before the murder-suicide, Kathleen “Katie” Yocher had reached out to Stuart for advice and sympathy in dealing with her troubled husband. The cause of Yocher’s murderous rage in the early morning of July 20, 2016, was his discovery of communications with Stuart on his wife’s cell phone.

More than a year after Stuart and Yocher’s deaths — which police at the time called “an isolated incident” — Stuart’s family has been unable to obtain police reports about his death. The Connecticut State Police are in charge of the investigation, which for unknown reasons is still uncompleted, and local news organizations have failed to report on the circumstances that led to the deaths of Stuart and Yocher.

What is most startling about this story is the seeming indifference by the Hartford Courant, a newspaper that has twice won Pulitzer Prizes. Here is a tragedy involving two issues — domestic violence and firearms laws — that should be of interest to the Courant’s readership. The mysterious delays in the State Police investigation, and the possibility that police in Naugatuck and Waterbury shielded Yocher from the consequences of his alleged domestic violence, has the distinct aroma of a cover-up.

Two men are dead because Hal Yocher still had his guns that morning in July 2016, and much of the same information that I have shared here has also been sent to the Hartford Courant and other news organizations in Connecticut, as well as to various officials, including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who for 20 years was the state’s Attorney General.

So why is this story being reported on my blog, and not by the journalists at the Pulitzer-winning Courant? It beats me. Maybe readers could contact Andrew Julien ([email protected]) editor-in-chief of the Courant or the newspaper’s investigative editor John Ferraro ([email protected]) and ask them why they haven’t followed up on this story. You might think that the murder of a civilian by an off-duty cop, under circumstances that could give rise to accusations of obstruction of justice, would be considered newsworthy. Certainly, the family of the murdered man would be willing to talk to reporters in Connecticut who were trying to find out why the State Police haven’t finished their investigation of this case.

Tommy Stuart left behind two young children, a son and a daughter. They might become plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit against Waterbury officials, but the failure of State Police to complete their investigation, and the refusal of Waterbury police to release their records related to the case, make it difficult for Tommy’s children to seek justice.

This could be a big story, and it astonishes me that local reporters in Connecticut aren’t pursuing it. One of my sources in Waterbury said: “Everybody knew Tommy. Everybody loved Tommy. He was just one of those wild guys with a heart of gold.” If readers will share this on Facebook and Twitter, maybe we can get some justice for him.



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