In two days last month, authorities say Deykevious Russaw killed two innocent bystanders. They say Russaw shot and killed a man sitting on a park bench and drove a stolen SUV over a woman waiting for a bus, causing injuries that led to her death.
The 18-year-old Hartford man was formally charged Tuesday in the death of Rosella Shuler, who died a week after the out-of-control SUV struck her. The murder case against Russaw, for the July 16 shooting of Jeff Worrell, 63, was also moved to the adult docket on Tuesday. Russaw was held late Tuesday on a $2.5 million bond.
Russaw faces murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges in the killing of Worrell, a handyman shot as he sat in a park at Garden and Westland streets; and second-degree manslaughter, second-degree larceny, reckless driving, evading responsibility and driving without a license for the July 18 crash that resulted in Shuler's death, authorities said. Russaw turned 18 on July 18.
Police and prosecutors say both incidents were carried out by young people driving stolen cars.
Hartford State's Attorney Gail P. Hardy, who handled Russaw's arraignment, said afterward that a new law that limits the state's ability to detain juvenile offenders has contributed to a rash of car thefts across the state. Vehicle owners leaving their cars unlocked with the keys in them is also a major factor, police say.
"You have kids who are riding around in a stolen motor vehicle on Sunday and it's alleged that one of the kids in that car shoots at this gentleman who is just sitting on a park bench," Hardy said. "Two days later they're in a different stolen motor vehicle and driving around the city recklessly, nobody has a license, and they end up striking a lady who's just waiting for the bus and she loses her life. It's out of control at this point."
Shuler was waiting for a bus in front of 107 Ashley St. when a 2010 Toyota Highlander stolen from Walbridge Road in West Hartford jumped the curb and hit her. One of Shuler's legs was torn from her body during the crash and the second was amputated days later. She suffered massive internal injuries and died about a week after the incident.
Russaw admitted to police that he was driving the SUV when it hit Shuler, according to the warrant for his arrest. Five other teens were in the vehicle and they were seen running past the badly injured Shuler, according to the warrant. "It's probably one of the most callous incidents I've seen," Hardy said.
The state medical examiner classified Shuler's death a homicide and said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the lower extremities and torso.
"All these kids met up while they were in juvenile detention," Hardy said. "You have the law that requires them to be treated differently. When they go over to juvenile court, they can't be held on these cases and nothing serious happens to them so they continue their behavior."
Juveniles accused of stealing cars are released to their parents, guardians or juvenile probation officers, she said. They could be detained before the change in the law.
"You have the community in pain and these kids aren't getting the message," Hardy said. Instead, they say to themselves, "We'll go steal another car. Nothing is going to happen to us if we go to juvenile court."
Hardy said the legislature needs to revisit the new laws.
"We need to go back to the legislature and talk about how we deal with these kids who are arrested for what the legislature deems to be nonviolent offenses," Hardy said.
The car that struck Shuler was stolen earlier on July 18 from Walbridge Road in West Hartford. The owner told police that he could not remember whether he locked his two vehicles, the Toyota Highlander and an Acura. On the morning of July 18, he told police the SUV was gone and burglars had gone through the Acura. He said a Toyota key had been in the center console of the Acura but was gone that morning, according to a police report.
According to the warrant for his arrest, Russaw told police he was picked up in the Highlander at 188 Sigourney St. and he and the others drove to Williams Grocery, a short distance way.
Russaw told police the Highlander's driver door got wedged against a passing school bus. He said he moved the SUV in an effort to dislodge the door. As he turned from Sigourney Street to Ashley Street he said he could not stop the vehicle and hit Shuler. He said he ran off because he did not want to get into trouble.
Video of the incident told a different story.
Russaw opened the SUV door into the bus and then began yelling at the school bus driver, according to the warrant for Russaw's arrest. The video shows Russaw getting back into the SUV and driving off.
Video from another source shows Shuler standing at a bus stop at 107 Ashley St. and the Toyota being driven away from the minor collision with the school bus at Ashley and Sigourney streets, according to the warrant. The Highlander stopped briefly at the intersection for traffic, then turned right onto Ashley Street and quickly accelerated, according to the warrant. The Highlander then drove onto the sidewalk, hit a wrought iron fence, then struck Shuler, hurling her body 47 feet. The six people in the SUV then ran off past Shuler.
Russaw identified others in the Highlander for police, according to the warrant.
Police obtained a warrant charging Russaw with first-degree assault before Shuler died. They obtained a new warrant after her death. In arguing for the high bail Russaw was held on, Hardy said the state had a "strong case" and noted the surveillance video.
Russaw has been in custody since July 20. Russaw's family declined to comment outside the courtroom Tuesday.
Shuler's daughter, Jesse Vazquez, attended Russaw's arraignment flanked by friends and family and said she wants to see justice for her mother.
"I'm happy he was caught," Vazquez said of Russaw. "I'm happy that I am able to have little relief for my mom because she would've wanted me to keep going forward. I want all of them to be caught. I want my mom to be able to get her justice."