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Mallove friend saw 'buddy' hours before he died

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published April 11. 2012 4:00AM   Updated April 11. 2012 6:08PM

Norwich - A lifetime friend of Eugene Mallove testified he saw his "buddy" shortly before Mallove was brutally beaten as the trial of Chad M. Schaffer continued Tuesday in Superior Court.

Mallove, who was cleaning out the family-owned home at 119 Salem Turnpike, where he had grown up, had crossed the street to visit Francis S. Durga, a former classmate and longtime neighbor and family friend, leaving at about 7 p.m. on May 14, 2004. Earlier in the day, Durga had helped Mallove move some furniture.

"He crossed the street and looked back at me and put his hand up and said, 'Fran Durga, you're a good man,'" Durga said on the witness stand. "And I didn't see him again."

Mallove would be found in the driveway, brutally beaten, about four hours later. Durga said he woke up at 2:30 a.m., saw flashing lights at the Mallove property and went to the scene, where he gave police a statement.

Schaffer, a 34-year-old restaurant worker, had lived at the Mallove home with his mother and stepfather before they were evicted for nonpayment of rent. He is one of three people accused in Mallove's death and is on trial for murder, felony murder, conspiracy to commit murder and robbery. He had pleaded not guilty and rejected a plea offer from the state that would involve a prison sentence of 17 or 20 years.

Also Tuesday, James Michalski, a construction company owner from Uncasville, testified that he had driven by the property at about 8:30 p.m. that night and had noticed in the driveway "a white girl with dark brown hair and a black guy with a combed out Afro."

Schaffer, who is black, is accused of carrying out the crime with his cousin, Mozzelle Brown, and his then girlfriend, Candace Foster, who is white.

Former Norwich resident Patricia Davis, who worked at the fabric store in the shopping plaza behind the Mallove property, testified that as she was leaving work at 9:45 p.m. when she was startled by lights at the Mallove property and saw a black man with a baseball cap and baggy jeans standing near a car, relieving himself.

Davis said that, as she waited to pull onto Salem Turnpike, she saw the car turn around and leave the property, pulling up behind her. The man she had seen was in the passenger seat as the car followed her onto Interstate 395 north, passed her and slowed down, she said. The car was in front of her until she got off the highway at Canterbury Turnpike.

Joyce Hopkins, a security officer at Foxwoods Resort Casino, testified that she found Mallove's van in an employee parking lot at the casino at 2:30 a.m. after hearing a "be on the lookout" alert from her office.

She said the minivan was there when she had arrived at work earlier that night. She said she noticed two men, one older and one younger, dressed in street clothing walking toward a car about 10 or 12 cars away from the van. She took down their license plate number as they left.

Retired state trooper Michael Contre, then a detective with the Eastern District Major Crime Squad, narrated a video he had taken of the Salem Turnpike crime scene, showing the body and the property from every angle. The state introduced items of evidence seized by the crime squad, including blood samples, a set of keys, a pocket knife, and four buttons that were found near Mallove's body. The detectives also collected a brick with blood and hairs on it, and a length of tubing found near the body.

Contre testified that the detectives painstakingly processed Mallove's Dodge caravan because it was obvious somebody besides Mallove had driven it from the scene. They emptied it of items, dusted it for fingerprints inside and outside, swabbed bloodstains on the dashboard and steering wheel, and collected hairs. Contre said there was a homemade cassette tape in the tape deck called, "Crazy crazy crazy country music."

Mallove, a 56-year-old science writer from Pembroke, N.H., had driven to Connecticut that morning to work on the home, according to earlier testimony.

The state is expected to call witnesses from the state crime laboratory when the trial resumes today.

k.florin@theday.com

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