Monday, December 11, 2006

Simple, Quiet Family Life Only A Memory For Parents Of Stabbing Victim

News & Commentary

Mistaken Belief Led To Assault

The Cool Justice Report
Dec. 11, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

Barry James never went to Yale, but no one was a greater supporter of Yale football.

Throughout the tiny home in Fairfield he shared with his aging parents are mementos of fall afternoons spent at Yale Bowl with his dad, Charlie. Charlie was his best friend.

There are photos of Barry and Charlie with Yale players and many caricatures portraying the men in the Yale gridiron milieu. The house -- in a quiet, out-of-the-way section of Fairfield -- has a certain lived-in quality. It bears the dust and dreams of an old Irish family that lived simple and quiet lives for generations.

Barry James would have been 60 years old in November.

In this town now dominated by McMansions and young Masters of the Universe, the James family holds on to whatever they can of better times.

Charlie, 91, and Rita, 87, moved into their house the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Imagine the anticipation of a young couple excited about such a major change in their lives.

Nearly sixty years later they would have to leave their home on Colony Street - without Barry. Their simple, tranquil life was shattered again by a senseless and unexpected act of bloodshed and death.

This time it was not service men and women half a world away; instead their son lay bleeding to death on his bedroom floor, brutally stabbed by a neighbor bent on vigilante justice for a misperceived wrong.

On Aug. 28, 2006, Rita sat at her counter as she often did. The kitchen was too tiny to allow anything larger that a built-in dinette.

Facing the door she could see the young man who lived next door pacing back and forth in his yard. Instantly, he vaulted a fence, jumped on the trunk of the James' family car and pierced his way through the screen on Barry's bedroom window.

He landed on Barry's bed, carrying a large kitchen knife in his hand. Rita heard him mention his daughter as he began to strike at Barry, swinging his arm back and forth and finally knocking Barry to the ground. She stood there unsure of why this was happening as she saw this intruder repeatedly strike at her son.

"I don't know your daughter," she heard Barry yell as the life was being cut out of him.

Fairfield police concluded the assailant acted on a mistaken belief that Barry James had improper contact with his daughter.

Barry died that day. Never again would the family share simple meals or talk about the next Yale game.

By all the actuarial tables Rita and Charlie had outlived their life expectancies. It defies the natural order to outlive your children. Now what days they have left will be lived in sorrow trying to understand why this act of violence took their son.

It was a quiet fall day when I visited the uninhabited James home. I felt a palpable sadness in the air despite the sunshine and seemingly quiet autumn street scene. In the assailant's yard children's toys remain, a reminder of another family destroyed that day as well.

I saw the spot where the rug was cut from the floor of Barry's room and taken as forensic evidence for his blood and DNA. As I looked at dozens of family pictures I could not shake the thought that this never should have happened to these people, whose only sin seemed to be that they simply lived too long. Proudly displayed on the wall is a picture of an ancient member of the James family, the brother of Charlie's grandfather, renowned for forming the predecessor of our modern Coast Guard. In Barry's room there is a caricature of Barry at a Yale game and countless more pictures of him or his dad posing with some now graduated Yale footballer, probably now an accountant or CEO somewhere, that moment with Barry long forgotten. This is all Charlie has left now -snapshots and fading memories. His recollection of events waxes and wanes, which in a way is a blessing for him.

Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Website,
Andy Thibault, author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. Thibault also serves as a consulting editor for the literary journal Connecticut Review. Website, and Blog,

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