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Bright moments stand out for retiring Waterford detective

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published January 30. 2014 4:00AM
DePasquale retires from Waterford Police Department

Detective Sgt. Joseph DePasquale has seen his share of senseless killings, tragic fatalities and grieving families - the stuff of nightmares - during the course of his more than 30-year-career with the Waterford Police Department.

While they are not memories to be easily forgotten, DePasquale said on the eve of his retirement it was the brighter moments of his time at the department that stood out in his mind.

There is the pride and relief at having solved a crime and been able to provide closure for a family by telling them the guilty party is behind bars. One of the more notorious cases of his career dates back to the murder of Renee Pellegrino in 1997, a case that though unsolved for more than a decade finally led to a conviction in 2012.

There were also more touching moments that made a lasting impression. In 2000, DePasquale said he had the honor of taking a young boy with terminal cancer for a boat ride. During the trip, arrangements had been made with the Coast Guard to pull up alongside the boat and name the boy an honorary member of the Coast Guard.

"Forget about locking people up. What we did for that little boy will always stay with me," he said.

DePasquale, known among friends as "Joey D," worked his last day at the department on Wednesday, ending a career that began when he started part-time work in 1981. He has been full-time for the department since 1984, detective since 1990 and the commander of the detective division since 2000.

DePasquale said "good and bad," he would not hesitate to do it all again because of the satisfaction of having served the community and the many opportunities he's had through the department along the way.

DePasquale's resume is chock full of special assignments that started in the 1980s when he was tapped as a marine patrol officer. After a promotion to the detective division, he was promptly assigned to the statewide narcotics task force.

Starting in 1995, he worked for 18 months on a New York-based West African international credit card counterfeiting investigation dubbed "Operation Silver Parrot," named after the holograms on the credit cards. It led to a series of arrest and indictments through the New York District Attorney's Office.

Later, DePasquale was assigned to the statewide organized crime investigative task force, focusing on southeastern Connecticut. From 2005 to 2007, he became one of the first local officers assigned to the newly created Connecticut Intelligence Center at the FBI New Haven office. It was during that time that DePasquale graduated from the FBI National Academy.

"I loved it. It was great. Every assignment I went on I went into it 110 percent. I went in to do a job and I worked hard," he said.

Waterford Police Lt. Brett Mahoney called DePasquale a "tenacious investigator with the best memory of anybody I've ever encountered in my life," making him well-suited to be a detective.

"He remembers everything about everyone. It's freakish," Mahoney said. "He can do 48 things at once. If you need to contact somebody across the state or nation - he's got contacts everywhere. I can't overstate that."

Mahoney said the department will miss his experience and institutional knowledge.

"But I'm always happy when people leave here and have their health and have the interest to stay attached to our profession," Mahoney said. "I'm sad to see him go but happy for him personally."

Chief Murray Pendleton recruited DePasquale from the security department at Millstone nuclear power plant, where DePasquale had been working since moving from New York City.

"He's a unique character," Pendleton said. "He has the unbelievable ability to network with law enforcement personnel from as many different walks of life as you can imagine. I think if you look up the word 'tenacity' in the dictionary, you'll find his picture next to it."

In his retirement, DePasquale has taken a job working for the U.S. Marshal Service as a judicial security officer at a federal courthouse in Hartford.

He said he has been mentally preparing himself for the change to a "normal life."

Married with three children, DePasquale said that among the things he won't miss about the job is his constant attachment to his phone and duty to respond at any hour of any day to an incident.

"The phone - that is going to be a relief when I detach it. It's like having a goiter, another appendage. That I will not miss," he said.

This past Christmas morning, DePasquale was called away from a holiday family gathering and sent to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital to investigate the death of a 34-day-old child.

"Of all the bad things I've seen as a detective, the tragedies I've seen … that solidified my decision," he said. "That was the message for me. It's just time. I had a great career. My departure is bittersweet, but I have to think of the next phase of my life."

g.smith@theday.com

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