After his arrest for drunken driving in March, Victor Diaz sat in a room at the Institute of Living psychiatric treatment facility three times a week and told a bunch of strangers how angry he was at himself for the way he was treating his girlfriend, Ciara McDermott.

"The love he had for her was obvious - that's all he talked about," said Arthurine Lattimore, a Hartford pastor who was one of about 14 people in the counseling sessions Diaz attended in March and April.

Lattimore said Diaz often talked about the arguments he had with McDermott.

"He was not happy with himself for the way he was treating her," Lattimore said, adding many times Diaz ominously said "something bad is going to happen."

Diaz did not mention McDermott's name often in the sessions, usually referring to her as his girlfriend, but Lattimore said she got a knot in her stomach when she turned on the radio on the morning of Nov. 22 and heard that a state trooper had killed his ex-girlfriend.

"I didn't even have to hear the names and I knew it was Victor," she said. "I had never met him before and never saw him again after those sessions but I could tell he was a tortured soul."

What made Victor Diaz lie in wait for several hours for Newington police Officer McDermott to return to her West Hartford house and kill her may never be fully known.

But an examination of court records and interviews with Diaz's friends and state police authorities shows that the Persian Gulf War veteran's downward spiral began with the March drunken-driving arrest in Cromwell.

Over the next nine months, Diaz underwent counseling at the institute; the mother of his child sought to limit his visitation rights and gain more child support; and he lost his girlfriend - McDermott moved out of the Middletown condominium they had been sharing.

In the days before the shooting, Diaz learned he was about to be arrested by West Hartford police for illegally using a state police computer to identify the owner of a car parked in McDermott's driveway. He also learned he would be the subject of a second state police internal affairs investigation - one that probably would cost him the job he loved.

West Hartford police are still investigating the murder/suicide and are expected to release a final report early this week. Sources said the investigation has been delayed to obtain Diaz's cellphone records, in an effort to determine whom he called before the slaying, and to get a toxicology report from the state medical examiner's office.

And state police are reviewing their actions involving Diaz since his DUI arrest, state Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle said.

Among those actions was returning the weapon Diaz ultimately used to kill McDermott to his brother, Edwin Diaz. State police had confiscated Victor Diaz's .40-caliber Glock - a private gun, and not his police-issued weapon - after he was arrested in Cromwell. They kept it until his criminal case ended in July, then on July 7 signed the gun over to Edwin Diaz, who happened to be living with Victor at the time.

Boyle said that because Victor Diaz was a police officer he did not need a permit for the off-duty gun, but that once he was arrested he no longer had police powers and therefore could not keep it without a permit. Although the criminal case had concluded by July 7, Diaz was still on administrative duty.

Boyle said it was likely state police were unaware that Victor Diaz, who had a gun permit, was living with his brother.

"We have to look back and see if we could have done some things better," Boyle said. "We're concerned about the stress level of troopers. We have an early intervention program in place and we are in the process of reviewing it. We're going to improve the program to include a more robust counseling portion to it to make sure that troopers get the help they need."

After Diaz was arrested in Cromwell, Karen Roche, the mother of his 5-year-old daughter, went back to Superior Court in Hartford to change his visitation rights and to seek more money, records show.

Diaz had been paying $100 a week in child support since acknowledging the child was his in February 2000. As of July 2004 he also had almost joint custody of the child, keeping her from Wednesday night to Saturday night. But Roche's action made it likely that that was going to change.

While some people who knew Diaz said he was concerned about losing access to his daughter, Roche's attorney, David Mester, said the changes had more to do with school schedules than anything else.