Eight months ago, well into the second year of a contentious divorce, Donna Bochicchio penned a note on a small piece of paper:
"I know he's going to kill me," her brother, Karl Seitz, said she wrote. "I just don't know when."
In the days after Michael L. Bochicchio shot and killed his estranged wife last Wednesday in a parking lot near Superior Court in Middletown, some have wondered why the retired state trooper snapped, saying the bloody attack on Donna Bochicchio and her lawyer, Julie Porzio, was out of character.
But family and friends are now learning that months before her death, Donna Bochicchio feared the simmering anger growing between them would explode in violence. After killing his wife, Bochicchio, 47, of Torrington, shot and killed himself.
"We all knew she was fearful," said Greg Gaudet, her boss at NI Design in Farmington, where Donna, 42, worked as a receptionist. "We never thought this would happen."
In an interview, members of Donna Bochicchio's family recalled a kind and giving woman who -- though increasingly fearful of her husband -- did not want to burden her family with the toll the divorce was taking.
Seitz, Bochicchio's oldest brother, said he found the telltale note about her fears while going through his sister's personal effects after her death. He has turned it over to Middletown police, who continue to investigate the murder-suicide.
Seitz said that he wishes he'd known the depth of his sister's fear earlier.
"When she was here, she was trying to do the best she could and didn't want to lay it on us," he said.
She did, however, confide in her niece, Heidi Barker, and a few close friends about her growing fear that her husband -- whom they described as controlling and possessive -- might try to kill her.
For many years, the Bochicchio's marriage looked strong from the outside. But Barker said it was less than perfect. She said Bochicchio told her that over time, Michael Bochicchio became increasingly hostile, making comments about his wife's appearance and struggles with her weight.
"He was just really controlling and he got really nasty," Barker said. "He was just killing her spirit."
During the first year of their divorce proceedings, the Bochicchios continued to live together in their house in Harwinton -- Michael downstairs, Donna upstairs. A judge last year ordered Michael Bochicchio out of the house.
When asked to respond to word of Donna Bochicchio fears, Bruce Bochicchio, Michael's brother, said he preferred to focus on the future.
"Donna was a beautiful person, and she was my sister-in-law and I loved her," he said. "The challenge now is for all three victim families to work together for the benefit of [their two] children -- to do something they weren't able to do before."
The divorce case went on for more than two years.
He was trying to wear her down and she was too strong for that," said Kathryn Kimball, a co-worker at NI Design. "Maybe that's why he resorted to something like this. He knew she was stronger than him."
The day before the shooting, Elise Irish, a co-worker and friend, said Bochicchio told her about a particularly upsetting encounter with Michael Bochicchio. One day after court recessed, Donna Bochicchio and Porzio saw Michael Bochicchio waiting in the parking lot.
"Julie motioned for Donna to go to the car and Michael motioned for Julie to come over to his car and they spoke," Irish said. "Then Michael drove off. After that, Julie told Donna she was afraid. The tone in his voice scared her."
Porzio remained in stable condition at Hartford Hospital, where she was taken after the shooting.
"Now that I look back, I think life was hell for her," said another friend, John Rizdon. "She told me many times, 'he'll kill me.'"
Donna Bochicchio's friends and family said her loss has left a terrible void. They remember a woman who adored her children and relished the opportunity to lend a hand to anyone.
During a trip to the Mohegan Sun casino with her husband, Donna Bochicchio found a college class ring someone had lost. She worked the phones and eventually reunited the ring with its owner, her brother and niece recalled.
Her boss, Gaudet, said that Bochicchio used her skills as a genealogist to help him track down his mother, whom he had not seen in decades. "There's not a single person who ever met her who didn't love her," he said.
Bochicchio was a cook whose efforts were sought by friends and family. Whenever she prepared a batch of her pasta fagiole soup, she had to use a huge pot because everyone wanted some, Seitz said.
Bochicchio created elaborate cakes for birthdays and other events, especially for her son, Michael, and daughter, Karlyn. Halloween costumes were another favorite activity.
"She would stay up until ungodly hours to finish these projects," said Anna Seitz, Karl Seitz's wife.
"She was such a wonderful daughter," said her mother, Irma Seitz. "I miss her so much."
At work, Donna Bochicchio kept track of birthdays and anniversaries, even the due date of a co-worker's wife.
"You look forward to seeing her every day because she had something to share that would make you feel good," Irish said.
Courant Staff Writers Alaine Griffin and Jesse Leavenworth contributed to this story.