"Karen recognized from the very beginning that Victor and [the child] were very close and she always acknowledged that," Mester said.

Mester said both Roche and the child, who "clearly loved her dad," are having a hard time dealing with Diaz's death. He said Diaz last saw his daughter on the weekend before the homicide.

Sources said Diaz attended the counseling sessions at the institute as a pre-emptive strike to help resolve his drunken-driving case more quickly. It apparently helped: He received accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation, in April from a Superior Court judge in Middletown.

Lattimore said Diaz attended the institute sessions three times a week for nearly two months, from mid-March through the end of April. Lattimore said Diaz complained constantly that the anti-depressants he took didn't allow him to sleep. She said Diaz talked about the problems with his girlfriend and his drinking, but rarely mentioned his daughter or that he was a gulf war veteran, even though other Army personnel were present at the sessions.

Institute officials would not comment on whether Diaz attended counseling there. Boyle said state police officials had no idea Diaz attended counseling at the facility.

Diaz, 37, became a state trooper in January 1998 after spending three years as a state correction officer. He was a 1987 graduate of Hall High School in West Hartford, where he excelled in football and was known as a good student.

Not long after completing high school, Diaz joined the Army and fought in the gulf war. He returned to his family's Hartford home and became a correction officer.

McDermott, 30, followed in the footsteps of her father, Peter, a police officer for more than 25 years in West Hartford and Windsor. She joined the Newington Police Department eight years ago and was appointed to the town's youth adult council, groomed as a crisis negotiator and, ultimately, became the youth officer at Newington High School.

Her death hit current and former students at the high school particularly hard. Many attended her funeral; others wrote eulogies on a website established by McDermott's family in her memory.

"Officer McDermott was the most compassionate woman I have ever known," one former student wrote. "I'm a 2003 graduate from Newington High School. If it wasn't for her I would have never made it out of school.

"She wrote me a quote in my high school yearbook: `We are about as happy as we make up our minds to be.' I keep it in a picture frame which is always right next to me."

It's unclear how and when Diaz and McDermott met, or how long they dated. Many friends contacted by The Courant were reluctant to share those details so soon after the tragedy.

At some point, they were living together in a Middletown condominium, and then in May 2005 she bought the Ridgewood road home in West Hartford. It's unclear if her plans to buy a house developed after Diaz's arrest in Cromwell or if they had originally planned to buy the house together.

About three weeks before the murder, Diaz noticed a new car sitting in McDermott's driveway. He called a state police employee at Troop H to look up the license plate on the car, an illegal action. He discovered that the car belonged to James DeLuca, a West Hartford police officer.

Diaz began making harassing phone calls to McDermott, who originally filed harassment charges against him with West Hartford police, but later decided not to pursue them.

The criminal investigation continued, because of the computer-use issue, but why she did not want to go forward with the other charges is another mystery.

Diaz found out five days before the shootings that West Hartford police had a warrant for his arrest. It could not have been much of a surprise, as sources said he admitted to West Hartford detectives he had accessed DeLuca's license plate through a state police computer.

At nearly the same time, Diaz received a letter from the state police indicating he was going to be the subject of another internal affairs investigation for misusing the computer. Because he was already serving a 60-day suspension as a result of the drunken-driving arrest, Diaz probably suspected the new probe would end his state police career, a fact that acquaintances said would have devastated him more than being arrested.

"He was looking at losing his daughter, losing his job and losing his girlfriend. There was a lot of pressure bearing down on him," another friend said.

Sources said police originally wanted Diaz to turn himself in on Nov. 18, a Friday afternoon, but because his attorney, Jeffrey Ment, was involved in a trial in Waterbury and couldn't make it back to West Hartford in time, an agreement was reached to have Diaz come to police headquarters at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21.

Diaz instead drove his car to Wolcott Park, far enough from McDermott's home that she would not notice he was there when she came home from work. He then walked to her home, entered it and logged on to her computer sometime around 1 p.m. Then he went upstairs to a second-floor bedroom and waited.

When McDermott came home about three hours later, she grabbed her laptop, but before she could finish logging on Diaz shot her three times in the head and chest with the Glock state police had returned to his brother. He then made at least three phone calls from inside her house, including one to Ment indicating he would not be showing up at police headquarters to turn himself in.

Then he went back upstairs and shot himself once in the head.

Many of McDermott's friends have been trying to figure out why the tragedy happened and how the relationship spiraled to such a violent end, claiming the lives of two police officers in their primes.

"There is something to be loved in all of us and Ciara saw what that was in Vic," a friend said. "No one should ever underestimate the pain of others and that sometimes love isn't enough in a relationship, yet sometimes it is too much."