SUFFIELD—Ronald DeMello beat her and allegedly pointed a pellet gun to her head in the past.
But Jadwiga Bodnar, a 66-year-old package store owner, was devoted to a "kind, loving" side of DeMello that police never saw, and the two were determined to be together.
At a time when state officials are examining how to keep better track of violent parolees, this is a case with a twist: a victim of abuse who continually sought out her assailant.
When DeMello was charged with assaulting her in 2004, Bodnar begged the judge to release him. After he was instead sentenced to three years in prison, Bodnar visited him 128 times in 2005 and 2006, according to records released to The Courant this week.
DeMello has been released from prison three times since -- once on a furlough and twice on parole. Two of the releases came despite a parole officer's warning that DeMello "will in fact hurt someone" if paroled, records show.
All three times he was released, he was caught at Bodnar's apartment in Suffield, in violation of the state parole board's conditions, records show.
The first two times DeMello was found at Bodnar's apartment, parole officers reported fresh bruises on her face. The third time, Sept. 7, she lay dead from blunt traumatic injury to her abdomen.
Police said they are waiting for an autopsy report from the state before determining whether to charge DeMello in connection with Bodnar's death.
Politicians are demanding to know why DeMello was allowed to have contact with Bodnar, the victim of the assault that landed him in prison.
"I just can't imagine why that would be allowed," said state Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, who has called for a review of DeMello's parole. "The state has a responsibility to protect the public even if they're not acting in their own best interest."
A Tortured Relationship
Police, prison and parole files for DeMello depict a man struggling with alcoholism and a volatile relationship with a woman who seemed both to love and fear him.
Suffield police had responded to a steady stream of domestic disputes between DeMello and Bodnar at her home since at least 2003. During a 911 call from Bodnar's apartment Dec. 5, 2003, a dispatcher wrote in a call log: "Party states that her male friend is abusing her and she can not take it anymore."
Calls like that prompted Suffield police, when on patrol in Bodnar's neighborhood, to routinely look up DeMello's name to see if there were any outstanding protective orders against him. DeMello had been arrested in Massachusetts and charged with three counts of assault and battery and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon before moving to Connecticut, records show. It was unclear whether he was convicted or served prison time.
During one incident in Suffield in 2004, Bodnar claimed DeMello shoved her to the ground, pointed a pellet gun at her head and slapped her when she tried to get up, according to an arrest warrant. In another incident the same year, Bodnar, her face covered in bruises, asked officers to "keep" DeMello for two days.
"She explained that he has been very `nasty' lately," an officer wrote in DeMello's arrest warrant.
A judge eventually issued a protective order prohibiting DeMello from entering Bodnar's home and from contacting her -- an order DeMello violated four times in 2004. During a court hearing in which he pleaded guilty to the violations, Bodnar spoke on his behalf.
"I just want to take him home," she told Judge Howard Scheinblum, "Please, because we're supposed to get married. How are we going to be separated?"