New London - Robert and Jenise Ladyga had already hit a low point in their lives when, they say, they were confronted last summer by a group of "kids" as they slept beneath an awning at Fulton Park off Crystal Avenue.
"The only thing I can remember is waking up, hearing them saying, 'Give us what you have,' '' Ladyga said. "I said, 'We have nothing. We're homeless.' The next thing I know, I woke up and the cops were there."
Ladyga, 55, said he suffered a broken jaw in the attack and a shoulder injury that "still bothers me to this day." His 49-year-old wife, formerly known as Jenise Covington, said the crime left her with a different type of injury.
"I see a psychiatrist over this," she said.
Deputy Police Chief Marshall Segar confirmed that police responded to the incident and said there is an open investigation. Segar said he and other police officials have urged Jenise Ladyga to go to police headquarters and meet with detectives, since she might be able to help identify suspects.
Though Jenise Ladyga wants to see the case solved, she admitted she is out of her comfort zone in the police station.
"They know where to find me if they need me," she said.
Robert Ladyga has recently started receiving Social Security income, and the couple now rents a room in a downtown building. Back in August, the couple was spending their days in the cycle of the homeless - walking between the overnight shelter, soup kitchen, hospitality center and so on.
As they recalled the August assault one afternoon last week, the couple sat on a queen-sized air mattress in their freshly painted room. They sipped from tall cans of beer and smoked cigarettes they had rolled themselves.
Turned away from shelter
Ladyga said it had been raining heavily on Aug. 23, and his wife had been turned away from the homeless shelter. Court records indicate that Jenise Ladyga had been charged with second-degree breach of peace on Aug. 13 and spent three days incarcerated. She said she had a drunken altercation with another woman at the shelter, and that in sentencing her to time served, a judge had admonished her not to drink when she went to the shelter.
The couple decided to sleep in the park, where they thought nobody would bother them. They said they had "a few drinks" earlier that day but were not heavily intoxicated.
Ladyga, who is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, said he woke up when one of the young men made his demand. He said he stood up, was assaulted and passed out.
"They pistol-whipped him with the butt-end of a gun," said his wife. "He went flying over the cement and his head hit a tree."
She described the attackers as six "punks" dressed in black hooded sweatshirts. She said two had guns and that some appeared to be black and some Hispanic. She said she reached down for her pocketbook and said to the men, "You want some? I'll give you some. How about cops?"
She said she thinks the men may have thought she was reaching for a gun. They fled, she said. She said she propped up her husband and ran to the police station, about a half-mile away. She flagged down an officer who was in the parking lot.
Ladyga said he was in the hospital for 1½ days and that his jaw was wired in two places.
His wife said that in November, when The Day published photographs of six defendants charged in connection with the murder of Matthew Chew, she thought she recognized two of the teenagers and told police.
"They said, 'You've got to be positive,' '' she said. "I said, 'I am positive.'"
Although she hasn't met with detectives, she said she is willing to testify in court "in a heartbeat."
"They hurt my husband," she said.
Chew, 25, was jumped and fatally stabbed on Huntington Street as he walked home from work on Oct. 29. The apparent randomness of the attack has put residents and visitors to the city on edge.
"We still talk about this thing with Matthew," said Ladyga. "They did it because they were bored?"
As for his own assault, Ladyga called it "absolutely ridiculous" and that his attackers should be punished.