With a history of domestic violence, Lawrence Jennette was already on probation for strangulation when, according to authorities, he strangled his girlfriend with a black shoelace last weekend in her May Street apartment.
"I would categorize him as a serial domestic violence offender," prosecutor Mark Brodsky said during Jennette's arraignment at Superior Court in Hartford Wednesday. "He has one of the worst histories we have ever seen in this courtroom."
Jennette was taken into custody late Tuesday on murder charges in connection with the death of his girlfriend, 30-year-old Cieratiye Henry.
The 38-year-old New Haven man has a criminal history that dates back 20 years to an animal cruelty arrest, Brodsky told the judge as he argued for a $4 million bond. Jennette's record also includes domestic violence arrests and assault, Brodsky said.
Jennette has been arrested 17 times since 1997, including three times for violating a protective order issued as part of a domestic violence case, according to his arrest history obtained from the state police.
Superior Court Judge Matthew J. Budzik ordered Jennette held on $3 million bond and continued the case to Sept. 20. As marshals walked Jennette out in chains, some members of the victim's family started yelling "coward" at him and began walking toward the front railing that separates the gallery from court personnel. They were escorted from the courtroom by marshals.
Outside the courtroom, Ayanna Henry said her sister and Jennette had been dating for about a year, but broke up about five days before she was killed.
"He used to accuse her of stuff and stalk her. He was very jealous," Henry said. "He had put his hands on her before, but had never really hurt her."
Officials said Jennette's arrest brought to end three days of restless nights for Major Crimes Division detectives assigned to the grisly killing.
Officers were sent to the apartment building about 7:30 p.m. after a neighbor called 911 to report seeing a woman on the first-floor hanging naked out a broken window, screaming for someone to call police, the arrest warrant affidavit for Jennette read.
When officers entered the apartment, they found a violent, bloody scene, Deputy Chief Brian Foley said.
"There was blood on the walls, the floor, [bloody] hand prints," Foley said. "The air conditioner was pushed out. The window … she was screaming out was smashed. There was a knife on the floor."
Investigators said the steak knife found inside was bent and broken at the hilt.
Officers quickly begin life-saving efforts on the victim, who showed signs of assault and had a shoelace strung around her neck. Henry was taken to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, where she died several hours later.
Police say an autopsy Tuesday revealed that Henry died from strangulation. It was not immediately clear if she had been stabbed, but the medical examiner noted a number of other injuries, including cuts, bruising and a puncture wound.
Though Cieratiye Henry had been staying at her mother's home, someone picked her up about an hour or so before the killing, Ayanna Henry said. Family members believe it was Jennette, because he had called her a few times that day.
When officers first arrived at the brick apartment building a block from St. Francis, cameras mounted in the police cars picked up the suspect leaving the building.
"However, it's a large apartment building, we don't know what's going on beyond a 911 call and this person walks right by our cruiser cameras, gets into a black Saturn SUV and flees the scene," Foley said.
Officers were focused on reaching the victim, Foley said. The affidavit said officers attempted to stop Jennette for questioning, but he evaded them.
The killing was not public addressed by police until Monday evening. Foley said little information about the homicide was released immediately because investigators believed that if the suspect knew the victim had died, he would have fled the state.
Jennette was located by members of the department's fugitive task force Tuesday night at a hotel in New Haven. After a judge signed the arrest warrant, he was taken into custody without incident.
Police say Jennette has an extensive criminal history in New Haven. He is a plumber based Meriden.
Hartford police said they have not had any previous interactions with Jennette. It appears he was living in the May Street apartment, police said, but officers had never been called to there for other domestic incidents.
"There was more than one person who believed [the victim] was in an abusive relationship with this man," Foley said.
Ayanna Henry said she sensed the suspect was Jennette. "When police showed up, I had no doubt who had done it," she said. "I told them his name was Lawrence and they already knew his last name."
The arrest affidavit said that police found some prescription pill bottles with Jennette's name on them in the bloody apartment.
After Jennette's arraignment several members of Henry's family talked about Cieratiye, describing her as an intelligent, humorous person.
The victim's grandmother said she had concerns about her granddaughter's boyfriend well before Cieratiye Henry was killed.
"I have a good sense about people and when I met him I knew he was no good," Gloria Holloway said. "He treated her like he was her pimp ordering her around.
Holloway said she told her granddaughter "don't ever bring him to my house again."
"She had her issues like we all do," Holloway said. "But there's no reason to kill her like he did."