A few weeks after popular Westport jeweler Kuti Zeevi was murdered in a 2011 robbery at his Compo Shopping Center store, the hunt for his killer grew cold.
But State Police detective Tom Kiely had a hunch. What if the murderer was not from the area?
Using only records from a burner phone — whose number Zeevi had written on a blotter, when he received calls from it — Kiely worked doggedly to detect patterns.
There were weeks when the phone was unused. He traced activity right before and after that time to airports. Working with US Customs and Border Protection officials, Kiely narrowed a list of possible suspects from 170 to just a few — and then to only Andrew Levene.
Sure enough, he was in Spain. Three days later Levene was arrested, and charged with murder and the theft of $300,000 in diamonds from Zeevi’s jewelry store.
Soon after — while awaiting extradition to the US — he killed himself in prison.
Kiely’s detective work earned him awards from the Connecticut State Police and US Department of Justice.
That was just one of countless cases — including Sandy Hook Elementary School — that Kiely handled during his 21 years with the State Police.
Now he’s a month into his new challenge: operations director for the town of Westport.
After 2 decades of dealing with people in the worst moments of their lives, he’s eager to help them handle less crucial issues, in a supportive and well-run community.
Kiely retired in 2021, and “pumped the brakes.” When his first daughter was born, he enjoyed being a stay-at-home dad. (His wife works in brand management, for skincare products.)
Now — after the birth of their second child 2 months ago — it’s time to get back to a paying job.
A friend told Kiely that Westport was looking for an operations director. After three rounds of interviews, he was hired this fall.
“It’s a natural progression,” he says of his new position. “I spent 21 years in public service, at the state level. Now I’m more localized. It’s hands-on work. I can really get things done.”
Growing up in Shelton, and attending St. Joseph High School, Kiely spent time in Westport. “We’d put the top of the Jeep Wrangler down, and head to Compo,” he says. “It was great.”
He attended Plymouth State University expecting to be a meteorologist. But physics and calculus were not his strong suit. He switched majors, to public management.
After graduation, Kiely nearly accepted a sales job with Pfizer. Yet — with a father who was a retired Trumbull police chief, and a grandfather who’d been a Bridgeport police captain — he also applied to the State Police Academy.
That acceptance came through. Kiely began on patrol with Troop G in Bridgeport, made detective at 26, spent most of his career with the Western District Major Crimes Unit, then finished in a supervisory role.
His first month in Town Hall has been “drinking from a fire hose,” Kiely says. He’s met with department heads and directors, learning who does what here (and how).
Now he’s ready for specific assignments from 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker. He looks forward to working with, for example, the Downtown Improvement Plan Committee, Transit District and Sustainable Westport.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Kiely admits. “But town employees, residents –everyone — has been fantastic, and very welcoming.”
The resident issues he’s dealt with so far — paving, lawn damages and the like — are minor, compared to murders and robberies. But, Kiely knows, they’re important to people when they happen.
“This job is results-driven,” he says. “I think I have the ability to communicate with people, and help them talk and work together to solve problems.”
Part of the operations director’s job is to solve big problems — say, the aftermaths of hurricanes and blizzards.
With the State Police, Kiely constantly dealt with crises. That experience should serve him will whenever he needs it. Of course, he hopes those events are few and far between.
Meanwhile, he is settling easily in to his new role. Already, he’s discovered the double espressos at GG & Joe’s.
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