[OPINION] Domestic Violence Advocate Questions Suicide Ruling

An “06880” reader writes:

I am a domestic violence advocate. I have worked for many years with women nationwide who are in abusive situations and custody battles. I am also very familiar with Connecticut Protective Moms, a non-profit working with Connecticut Family on all forms of domestic violence, including physical, coercive control, emotional, verbal, financial and legal abuse.

My training, intuition and experience tell me that the incident last week in Westport — despite the medical examiner’s ruling — was not suicide.

I have heard from many moms in the state. They also question this declaration by the medical examiner.

I can’t think of any woman who would choose to commit suicide in the manner cited by the medical examiner: “sharp injuries of torso and extremities.”

Women typically commit suicide by overdosing, slitting their wrists, drowning or hanging.  Violent suicides are much more likely for men than women.

She did not have a motive. While she had chosen to leave her ex-husband, and had filed for financial support, there had been no ruling against her. Therefore she would still have had hope.

From accounts of her friends, she was a loving mother.

I plan to call the medical examiner to find out why he made this determination.  I hope others will as well (jgill@ocme.org). If his office receives several inquiries, they may look further into this rather than consider it closed.

The state medical examiner ruled last week’s death on Lyndale Park a suicide. An “06880” reader is not so sure.

44 responses to “[OPINION] Domestic Violence Advocate Questions Suicide Ruling

  1. Rhonda Williams

    I had the same thoughts myself.

  2. I URGE EVERYONE TO CONTACT THE ABOVE ADDRESS ANYONE WHO KNEW THIS WOMAN KNOWS IT WASN’T A SUICIDE.

  3. Nancie Rinaldi

    I had the exact same thought. I thought self inflicted wounds sounded like an awful way to commit suicide. And a terribly hard way. I kept trying to envision how one would even do that. Seemed impossible to me.

    Does anyone know where Eric Malone has been through all this?

    • Slitting of the wrists and self inflicted stab wounds to the torso using a knife is far to common. Yes it is sad but very possible and far too common.

    • And especially after killing her own 7 year old daughter, I doubt she would want a peaceful painless way out. She would have been in a crisis mentally which would lead to aggressive self harm.

  4. Linda Montecalvo

    Thank you domestic abuse advocate for submitting this post & to Dan for publishing it. I did not know this women but this very thought has been swimming around in my head for days and I’m while not prone to this thinking – this very thought just won’t leave me. I plan to voice my concerns as well.

  5. Come on, this is none of our business. Let’s give the grieving family some respect and leave them alone.

    • Of course it’s our business. Two people died. That’s a matter of public concern. Or it should be.

    • Wellll- it Kinda is… this would mean there is a murderer loose in our town/area/community.
      also I’m certain the family would want to know the truth (whatever that is).
      It’s very very sad. Heartbreaking

    • The police are already investigating. They have access to more information than any of us. It is NOT right for people to be spreading false information/rumors on this blog.

      Please respect the dead, and mind your own business. The truth will come out in due course. Getting the community worked up and spreading fake news is not the answer.

      • Nobody’s worked up. No one’s frothing at the mouth. People are questioning what happened. Westport doesn’t have a full-time, fully staffed, fully funded, dedicated news source. When word of the deaths spread, residents were reduced to piecing together events by reading blogs, Twitter, Facebook group posts (before they were sanctimoniously yanked), press releases from the police and the school system, or reports from Hartford and New York City papers. Many details from that day have never been explained. We don’t know what’s true and what’s gossip. But sitting back and depending on the truth to come out one day, because it always does? I think not.

  6. James Waldron

    Westport CSI. Appointment viewing.

  7. Barbara Mathias

    That was my first thought as well…i’m no expert, but come on!

  8. Cristina Negrin

    I agree, when I read how she died I immediately thought she was murdered. I’ll be sending that email

  9. Dan’s stories sometimes make me cry and I don’t live in Westport anymore. This is one of the top heartbreakers. What an adorable little girl. That poor mother no matter what the truth revealed is. What desperation. Agree with many of the women who posted above. Isn’t settling well with me either.

  10. Bill Strittmatter

    I gather “domestic violence advocates” aren’t covered by the Goldwater Rule?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldwater_rule

    Interesting that many commenters here have previously noted how outstanding the Westport PD is. Don’t you think they have been investigating this? Don’t you think they are competent enough to think about checking alibis? Maybe it is still an open case that they are not commenting on for what should be obvious reasons.

    Why don’t people let them do their jobs or would you prefer they post copies of the crime scene photos as well as the autopsy report and autopsy photographs on Dan’s blog so all you amateur detectives can do their work for them? Maybe give us all access to the victim’s phone and hard drives as well?

  11. It is troubling. We are a small town. They were part of our community.

  12. Hi Dan. I’m not sure that posting this note from a “06880 reader” was wise. Are these folks privy to the results of the rather intense Police investigation? I hope nobody thinks that the ME makes his findings without a whole lot of information.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      Exactly. What’s next? A post from someone questioning McAfee’s “supposed” suicide?

      This post wasn’t particularly helpful to anyone unless, perhaps, you think the WPD is completely incompetent or corrupt.

      • Actually, what’s next is someone calling this an “anti-Asian hate crime.” There’s no evidence of that, but what they heck, why not rile up all the anti-anti-Asian hate crime sentiment that’s festering in society.

        No one on here has access to any of the relevant information, and yet people feel entitled to inject their uninformed views.

        It’s not right to disrespect the dead like this. Please, please, please, let the process play out and let the two people rest in peace.

        • James Waldron

          Thank you Joan, and thank you Bill S. Maybe, ‘An “06880” reader’ can report a doggie doo left on Compo Beach and the super sleuths can get to the, ‘bottom’ of that incident.

        • Jennie Pickering

          except you just raised that concern…

          as friends of Tracy, it is only right that we support an ongoing investigation into the truth of the matter.

          the author was just sayin….

      • This has nothing to do with the Westport police. It’s about the medical examiner.

        • Deborah Silton

          Sorry Mr. Woog but I think you seriously miscalculated by posting this and encouraging people to email a medical examiner. You’re causing way more harm than good for everyone involved and have absolutely no place in instigating this type of behavior.

  13. A lot of women seem to be questioning the authority of a lot of men. That doesn’t seem to be going over too well. At least in the Before Times, asking questions and looking for answers was nothing to be ashamed of.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      Wow. Really?

      I think the only points being made is that amateurs, of any stripe, probably should let the police do their jobs and leave pure speculation in the absence of facts to Trump and QAnon as its publication is unlikely to help anyone and may, in fact, hurt innocent bystanders if it proves to be untrue.

      • A reader had an observation and a concern. That reader wrote it down, using words, and sent it in to Dan. Dan published it. What is it about requesting transparency, doubting authority, and participating in a free press that troubles you so much?

        • Bill Strittmatter

          Nothing wrong with a free press. Personally, I’m a big fan. Dan can publish whatever he wants. It’s his blog and he can deal with the consequences, if any, that derive from what he chooses to publish. However, this sort of piece strikes me as more the journalistic province of the National Enquirer rather than The NY Times.

          As for why it, perhaps, should not have been published, I suggest you read Mr. Bruce’s post below.

  14. Good thinking on the part of this domestic violence advocate. If she was abused, the abuser will certainly abuse another woman. It’s a very complicated situation. It is our business. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING!

  15. The last (and only) time I have ever been really really close to a police investigation of a suspicious death I learned a lot of things, largely because I spoke with police and the coroner nearly every day for several weeks.

    One: Police and coroners tend to be conscientious, hard working, and dutiful, and they care an awful lot about getting to the truth and sharing it with those directly affected. Their ability to release information, particularly prior to closing an investigation is limited by both legal and practical constraints. It shouldn’t be hard to think of what many of those might be. And if they are any good at all, they are more than capable of adjusting to more information as they learn it.

    Two: There is an incredible amount of work involved in the investigation of a suspicious death. There can be tens or hundreds of people to interview. There is a stunning amount of medical and forensic investigation. There are records to be examined. There timelines to be built and rebuilt. The work is arduous, painstaking, and time-consuming.

    Three: Speculation, in public, whether in the press, on social media, or elsewhere, by people who know nothing beyond what has been reported in the news, some of which may not be true by the way, is generally not helpful. It is distracting for those working to find the truth, and it is often hurtful for family and friends close to the deceased. The purported and typically self-reported expertise of the speculators is seldom germane, and does not necessarily increase credibility. To the closely involved, it looks like little more than prurience. If all you know is what you read in the press or on social media, you don’t know much at all.

    Four: There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that you can think of in a case like this that the police and coroner have not already thought of, and they are not investigating or have not investigated.

    It’s a free country. People are free to speculate, and free to publish it. They just shouldn’t con themselves into thinking it helps anyone.

  16. Dick Lowenstein

    A “06880” reader writes”? Male or female? Lay person or medical professional? Real or a conspiracy theorist? Based on facts or a hunch?

    Whatever, this person should be talking to the WPD and not starting a letter-writing campaign to intimidate James Gill, the CT Chief Medical Examiner.

  17. My name is Tomas Curwen and I am a 2021 Staples Graduate heading off to the University of New Haven to become a firefighter and paramedic. I am commenting because I hate reading false claims and rumors, so I therefore will post facts that I know to be true to prevent false information. I have a handheld scanner that I listen to Westport and Norwalk EMS and Fire dispatch (Yes that is legal for unlicensed scanning). That day, the day of my graduation, I was listening to the scanner and I heard the EMS and the fire dispatch. On the preliminary EMS dispatch, 601 and 604 (ambulance and paramedic fly car) as well as 3 police officers including one supervisor for “female around 30 years of age cut her wrists”. Engine 6 (WFD) was dispatched to the same thing a few moments later. When the ambulance was halfway there, the dispatcher updated the call. The female was now unconscious with CPR being performed.” Those are real facts that I have given, nothing altered. The dispatch was “female cut HER wrists” which very much fits under “sharp injuries of torso and extremities.” Hours later I read on a news source that the husband, divorced in 2018, was attempting to evict the wife. I never like talking about anything this sensitive that I have heard on the scanner, especially something this large, but I also hate to see such false and unproven information. Please trust the judgement of the Connecticut Medical Examiner, as he is a professional and determining the cause of death his his job, not ours as concerned as we may be as westport community members. We tend to live in a bubble and what seems impossible to us could sadly be a common sight for someone such as the ME. I hope I have cleared up some uncertainty. Please do not question the abilities of the ME, who has been in the Chief ME position since 2013 and prior to that spent 15 years working in New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner. To conclude, pease stick to facts, not feelings. Thank you and bless the two souls who lost their lives.

  18. Pretty shocked that you would post this conspiracy theory BS, Dan.

    “[S]harp injuries of torso and extremities” absolutely encompasses “slitting their wrists,” as your “06880” reader writes.

    Publishing you readers’ conspiracy theories is irrespsonsible and insulting. Has this reader analyzed the forensic evidence from the crime scene?

    Of course not. They’re pulling this out of their @ss, and OF COURSE they want to remain anonymous.

    Do better, Dan.

  19. Also if anyone still wants to pester the ME, please get a degree in forensic science before going up against the number one professional in the state.

  20. So, to recap: Some people and organizations are omniscient, omnipotent, and infallible and should never be doubted, questioned, or interrupted via email. And everyone’s a news publisher with delicate sensibilities (and no financial stake) whose limited experience is, for all practical purposes, global as well as intergalactic. But there is one thing you’ve got me questioning, so I’m going to go back and check my notes: This is still America, right, or did I miss the memo?

    • This is a very different America than what America was just a few years ago, both in good, and bad ways. Questioning to create a stir based on poor understanding, or poor information, is in poor taste to say the least. Unfortunately the “06880 reader” that wrote this OPINION seems to be anonymous which says all I need to know about that person and Dan. Dan’s blog is now officially a rumor mill.

    • I absolutely see your point. Not every person or organization is perfect. Please give at least one piece of information proving how they ME’s final decision could be incorrect. I am not here to put up a fight, with so many people convinced that the ruling is false, I am genuinely seeking FACTS that everyone here may have proving this new theory. Keep in mind I asked for facts, not feelings. I understand how you may have known the person and could not believe they would have done something like this. But isnt that what everyone who knows a mass killer says? Or the mother of a prejudice shooter? You can never really know what is going on inside someone’s head and just “knowing someone” is not nearly close to any sort of concrete proof, nor is it in any way a fact. Remember I work with facts. I will continue to say the word FACT because that is the truth.

  21. It’s 11:30 pm and I’m just reading this posting and the comments. I don’t see a problem with this particular posting by Dan. Seriously, give the guy a break!

  22. It’s amazing how dense people can be even in such a highly educated community. The reason to refrain from idle gossip about a family tragedy has nothing to do with the caliber of the Medical Examiner or police investigation; it’s to protect the surviving family members the pain of seeing and hearing this stuff over and above the horror they’re experiencing. So, yes, I do see a problem with this particular post by Dan, and the individual who’s prompted it.

  23. This is to support Dan in printing a letter about domestic violence. I had read about the tragedy in a local news email but knew little about it.

    What struck me immediately while reading the blog was the number of women who wrote intelligently supporting that theory as well as the disturbing fact that domestic violence is so prevalent that women are able to sense it.

    There can be little positive to say about the many men who wrote mocking and belittling comments in response.

    I am concerned about the young man who recently graduated from high school whose comments increasingly seemed to warn everyone not to interfere. I am concerned for him because he does not seem to be in the mold of the medical examiner who thought the points raised were serious enough to deserve a careful response.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      This really shouldn’t be a male/female thing, but more the propriety of publicly tossing out pure speculation from an “expert”, completely unsupported by any evidence whatsoever, that impugns other community members.

      Let’s try a thought experiment:

      Let’s say you lived in a two person household and the other member of your household, who, as occurs in many households, you have periodically non-violently (to the best of our knowledge) argued with, happens to trip and fall breaking their arm. They are transported to the hospital by EMS as no one else was home at the time. That happens to be picked up in the local press with a comment from first responders and police, who were also on scene, confirming that there had been a trip and fall incident.

      With, apparently, zero other information, a domestic violence advocate writes Dan an “opinion piece” that says “I read that a person that lives in the two person Reed household purportedly tripped and fell but, based on my expert experience, it can’t be a trip and fall as those don’t normally happen, particularly since the victim had to be taken to the hospital with a broken arm. This clearly looks like the result of domestic abuse and, oh by the way, I understand the other household member was overheard arguing with the victim a few months ago. I know the police looked into it but their trip and fall conclusion is obviously wrong and someone is be getting away with something and I intend to contact the police and if everyone else contacts the police on the matter, maybe we can get the real answer.”

      Dan, obligingly, publishes it. Commenters then jump on the bandwagon noting, among other things, “everyone that knows the victim knows they have an impeccable sense of balance and could never trip and fall”, “yeah, the trip and fall story doesn’t ring true” and “I immediately thought domestic abuse”.

      You’d be fine with all that? I would hazard to guess that most people, including commenters here, wouldn’t be if they were involved.

    • I am replying to Jeanne Reed. I do have experience with medical examination as my dad is a former police officer and I have taken the Forensic Science class at staples as well as other medical classes. I know how much effort, searching and thinking alongside evidence goes into determining the cause of death in a particular incident. Again, this is the top Medical Examiner and one of the top forensic scientists in the state. With all his years of experience I stated above, it would take a lot for me to question such a credible official. And again all I asked previously is for literally one fact proving this theory. And the fact that none were given concerns me into thinking my original verdict that this theory is most likely incorrect. The reason I want to be a firefighter and medic is to help people. Please help me in understanding this theory with provable facts please. That’s all I ask, I am not here to be an enemy or to knock down any possibilities. Thank you.

  24. Tabitha Nguyen

    Many communities base their success on how well they manage appearances of ideals, Westport is no exception. Our community suffered a collective trauma last week, and it is natural for people to look for answers to the gaping questions of “why” and “how”.
    We can conjecture as to what really happened as much as anyone, but in actuality, who ever truly knows what goes on in a family.
    It seems to me a significant take away from the loss of these two lives is that this mother believed she had no support in her time of trouble, loss and stress.
    Suicide survivors know how it feels to not understand how a loved one could feel so isolated and hopeless in the most raw way. For Tracy’s friends, it doesn’t make sense. For her family it doesn’t make sense.
    But the awful outcome of an ugly family separation process says otherwise.
    I will not vilify a woman in crisis. I will not make assumptions and judgments about this family.
    It is a tragedy for everyone involved. My memories will be both of open hearted mother and shining daughter now gone. My heart aches for a daughter left with much pain to manage. It is my hope that this family can heal, and offer open arms to a young woman who has not yet developed armor to protect her from life’s cruelty, who needs to be reassured that someday the hurt will not always be so crushing.
    I agree it’s not nice to pry into peoples’s personal tragedies as gawkers, or as justification of prejudices and misinformed assumptions. But showing genuine concern for others in crisis is a mark of a sympathetic human. It’s what a caring community does.
    So a few points to the comments in response to the opinion piece:
    Asking people to consider alternate theories is not the same as promoting untruths. Violence against women is real. It’s happens in affluent communities just as much as poor communities, it’s just not reported as readily.
    No one is peddling conspiracy theories here. Someone is just looking for assurance that all scenarios are reviewed so the “that sort of stuff doesn’t happen here” mentality doesn’t drive of outcomes of the investigation.
    And lastly…
    Using the guise of respecting family privacy as a platform to bemoan real social injustice issues while at the same time belittling other people’s genuine concern is plain ugly on so many levels.

  25. Nicely done, Tabitha. Bravo.

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