Michael Bochicchio Jr. pulled into the city parking lot behind the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday.
He parked his Dodge Caravan nose-out, so he could watch the lot entrance, and armed with a semiautomatic handgun, he waited.
At 9 sharp, parking attendant Elaine Eldridge opened her small ticket booth at the Court Street entrance, and about 30 minutes later, Bochicchio's wait was over. The former state trooper saw the black minivan carrying his wife, Donna, and her attorney, Julie Porzio, arrive.
As Porzio parked the van, Bochicchio walked across the pavement, opened the passenger's side door and opened fire with his .40-caliber handgun, killing the mother of his two children and wounding the Waterbury lawyer.
Finished, Bochicchio, 47, dressed in shirt and tie, raised the gun to his head and fired once more. Gravely wounded, he slumped against an adjacent vehicle and slid to the ground.
Wednesday's ambush ended what police and the couple's friends described as a protracted, bitter legal battle that began in April 2003 with Michael Bochicchio filing for divorce in Superior Court in Litchfield. The case had been transferred to Middletown where terms of an anticipated settlement leaned heavily in favor of Donna Bochicchio. The pair were due in court Wednesday.
At Hartford Hospital, shortly after 7 p.m., Bochicchio's family took him off life support and donated his organs.
Porzio, 42, wife of former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro, was listed in stable condition there, where she underwent two separate surgeries, police said. Her family gathered at their home in Waterbury while Santopietro rushed to the hospital with their two small children. Bochicchio's shot struck Porzio's raised hand, face and shoulder. One bullet deflected off her right hand and grazed her cheekbone.
The shootings -- the most serious incident in memory at the Middletown courthouse -- halted court business as police, firefighters and paramedics converged on the lot. Witnesses had heard gunshots shortly after 9:30 a.m. and saw Bochicchio lying on the pavement.
The court building was locked down for about an hour, and later in the afternoon counselors were available to speak with shaken court workers.
Some people in and around the courthouse initially mistook the sound of the gunfire for the hammering of a crew working on the courthouse air conditioning. But when the first sirens wailed and word of the shooting crackled over police radios, courthouse marshals raced around the back of the building.
By then, it was too late.
Waterbury lawyer William Brown had been gathering court files from his car and talking on his cellphone when he heard the shots and looked toward the van.
``I saw a man fall against a car. He lingered there for a while and eventually fell to the ground,'' Brown said. ``That's when I called 911.'' Brown is managing partner of Moynahan, Minnella and Tindall of Waterbury where Porzio worked for about 10 years. He did not know when he phoned police that Porzio was involved in the shooting.
About a dozen Middletown police officers, including Police Chief J. Edward Brymer, were at police headquarters just steps away from the parking lot when the call came over the radio.
Racing through an alley on foot, they found paramedics trying to revive Michael Bochicchio. Donna Bochicchio, 42, who had been shot several times, had no pulse. Porzio was conscious and moving her arms and legs.
``She was talking, so I thought right away that that was a good sign,'' Brymer said.
Middletown police are in charge of the investigation, but state police detectives went over every inch of the crime scene -- searching for bullets in shattered window glass and other evidence under bloodied papers that lined the dashboard of Porzio's van. Police found a gun on the ground next to Michael Bochicchio. Witnesses reported hearing as many as eight shots.
At midday, Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton addressed the media in an effort to quell fears that a gunman was on the loose. Residents, she said, needed to know the incident stemmed from a domestic dispute.
``This is tragic, unnecessary, unfortunate. Beyond unfortunate,'' Thornton said as she walked back to city hall.
Chief Justice William J. Sullivan and Chief Court Administrator Joseph Pellegrino, in a joint statement, cited the violence that has occurred in recent months in courthouses across the country. ``Unfortunately, Connecticut is now on that list,'' they said.
News of the shooting also reached the governor. ``It's truly tragic and I also have to tell you that I am saddened to learn that this is a former and retired state trooper. Divorce is never easy, but this is certainly not the way to handle anger or frustration.''
Those familiar with the case say there was probably no single event that prompted Bochicchio to open fire on his wife and her lawyer.
The Bochicchios were married in August 1988 and lived on Lake Harwinton Road in Harwinton before the divorce proceedings.
Donna Bochicchio was a member of a prominent Torrington family that owns Seitz Corp., a manufacturing company. Donna Bochicchio still lived in the Harwinton home with their children, Karlyn, 12, and Michael, 14, but her husband had moved out and was living on Torringford Street in Torrington.
After hiring and then firing several lawyers during the two-year divorce case because he didn't think they were aggressive enough, several sources said, Michael Bochicchio was representing himself in the trial that began last month and was to enter its 12th day Wednesday.
The increasingly tense trial had been running off and on since early April.
The Bochicchios spent a day and a half last week at the courthouse in settlement negotiations, but those failed.
Bochicchio would ask witnesses questions that were not relevant to the proceedings or frequently go off on lengthy tangents.
He acknowledged he had a gambling ``addiction,'' and the more than $94,000 he lost in wagers last year alone was just one of the sums of money and assets his wife wanted to secure. It also came out during the sporadic days of testimony that Bochicchio had not paid taxes on his winnings.
``The pressure was not coming from any one piece of evidence or the possibility he hadn't paid taxes on his gambling winnings,'' said a lawyer familiar with the case. ``Obviously this was a long, frustrating battle for this guy.''
Wednesday, immediately after the shootings, Judge Barbara Quinn ordered lawyers be appointed to represent the children and ascertain that they were safe. They were.
Michael Bochicchio comes from a family with a long law enforcement background. His father, Michael Bochicchio, was a decorated state police officer who retired as a captain in 1989. His brother is a sergeant with the Waterbury Police Department, and his uncle was chief of detectives in Waterbury.
During his 21 years in the state police, Bochicchio had several assignments, including the Canaan barracks, Bradley International Airport and the state police gun control unit where he issued gun permits and assisted other law enforcement in tracing guns used in crimes.
Bochicchio graduated from the state police academy in May 1983, with 103 troopers who were the first to go through seven months of training, a longer, more regimented course.
His class was one of the most successful in the department's history, producing many of the troopers who would lead the state police 20 years later. It included Col. Edward Lynch, and three of the five majors who now serve under him, including Maj. Robert Duffy and Christopher Arciero and Steven Fields. Two former majors, John Buturla and Timothy Palmbach, who have since retired, also graduated with Bochicchio. State police Union President David LeBlanc and the former union president, Mark Wallack, were also in Bochicchio's class.
The shootings hit state police headquarters particularly hard, because even 22 years later, his class remains a close-knit group, bound by their experience at the academy.
``I would say they are shocked,'' said LeBlanc, who was fielding phone calls from stunned troopers all morning. ``My phone is ringing off the hook. He was well thought of. It's very, very sad.''
Bochicchio began his law enforcement career at Bradley airport as an officer. He was single when he went into the academy. He met and then married Donna Seitz after he graduated and went to the North Canaan barracks along with others in his class, including Lynch and Palmbach.
``They were both really nice people,'' said Palmbach, who now is director of the forensic science department at the University of New Haven.
Palmbach was shocked when he learned it was Bochicchio who was involved in the shooting.
``He was a really nice guy,'' he said, adding that he recalled Bochicchio as being ``low key.''
He said Bochicchio was one of the first of his class to leave the job, because his time at the airport counted toward 20 years of service, when he could retire and receive his pension. Recently, he worked as a security officer in federal court in Hartford.
Bochicchio remained in contact with many of his friends in the state police, including some of the command staff.
He had been seen Friday with a girlfriend at a retirement party in Cromwell for former state police Lt. Col. Ralph Carpenter, and he seemed happy, troopers said.
As news of the shooting made its way around the state police, troopers and supervisors said they were shocked that Bochicchio would commit a violent act.
He had a reputation as a solid employee, who never attempted to climb the ranks like so many others in his class.
``He was a normal guy, nothing out of the ordinary,'' said Sgt. Samuel Galloway, a supervisor at the airport, who had worked with Bochicchio.
Another trooper who worked with Bochicchio said the trooper was not happy when he was transferred from Troop W at the airport to the Litchfield barracks, so he decided to leave. Bochicchio retired from the state police in 2001.
``He decided to pack his bags and said that's it,'' the trooper said.
A former state trooper bumped into Bochicchio about a week and a half ago, and Bochicchio told him he was going through a nasty divorce that was really taken a toll on him. ``He was upset, all consumed by it,'' he said. ``He looked disheveled out of sorts.''
He said he spoke negatively about the wife's attorney and felt he was ``losing way too much and it wasn't fair.''
A friend and neighbor of Donna Bochicchio, who asked that her name be withheld, said the two of them often talked about the divorce when they met while picking up the mail or their kids played together.
``We talked a lot about it, me and Donna,'' she said. ``He didn't seem the type to do this, not at all.''
The two women had been friends in high school. She said Donna Seitz had been very popular.
Donna Bochicchio was also well known in Harwinton. Neighbors recalled how she liked to do things with her daughter and that the two of them had been seen out in the heat weeding.
``She was strikingly attractive,'' said Harwinton First Selectwoman Marie Knudsen. ``She had a consignment shop here for a while.''
On the surface, neighbors said, the couple seemed happy, but in court the story was anything but.
Bochicchio had complained to a neighbor in Hartford, Arthur Narvesen, that she was ``bleeding him,'' taking a lot of his money.
Bochicchio had been involved in a shooting in Canaan in 1993 with a man named Edwin Strekas, who was arrested and is currently serving a 10-year sentence on assault charges stemming from the incident.
Shots were exchanged between the two men after Bochicchio responded to a call at the Strekas home.
In an unusual twist, Bochicchio filed a civil lawsuit against Strekas and his family members for causing him severe emotional distress, according to court records. Bochicchio claimed he sustained injuries to his neck and knee during the shooting. He sued the family, claiming they failed to warn troopers that Strekas may be armed.
This file and other cases involving Bochicchio have become part of the police investigation into the shootings.
Courant Staff Writers Alaine Griffin, Josh Kovner, Lynne Tuohy, Dave Altimari, Tom Puleo, Katie Melone, Stephanie Reitz, Mark Pazniokas, David Owens, Daniel Jones, Gregory Seay and Lauren Phillips contributed to this story.
Michael Bochicchio Jr. pulled into the city parking lot behind the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday.
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