Police say Groton woman was taking items from dead man's home

Danielle Sullivan
Courtesy of New London Police Department Danielle Sullivan

New London — A Groton woman was arrested Thursday evening for trying to pilfer items from the New London home of a man who had died just hours earlier after he was crushed by a trash compactor at the city's transfer station.

Police visited the Borodell Place home of 59-year-old Floyd G. Smeeton to secure it and check in on two cats and a dog they learned were at the home. Smeeton was killed Thursday at the transfer station, where he had apparently been dumping garbage into a hopper containing an automatic compactor. Police said he may have fallen into the machine.

At Borodell Place police found Danielle Sullivan, 24, of 48 Nathan Hale Road in Groton, exiting the home carrying a trash bag containing belongings from Smeeton's home, said police, adding that she fought with officers during her arrest and was combative during her ride to police headquarters. When police searched Sullivan, they said, they discovered a small amount of the drug PCP.

Sullivan, who has had several past run-ins with police, faces numerous charges that include second-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools and attempted assault of a police officer. Her past convictions include third-degree assault, interfering with an officer and probation violations.

New London police Deputy Chief Peter Reichard said Sullivan knew Smeeton and was aware of his passing, but he did not say how.

Reichard said police are to investigating the circumstances of Smeeton's death.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators responded to the scene to inspect the transfer station, located on Lewis Street and managed by the city's public works department.

Nancy Steffens, spokesperson for the state labor department, said Friday that the department's investigation is just beginning and it is too early to make any recommendations or come to any conclusions about the incident.

It was at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday that emergency dispatch fielded the 911 call from the transfer station reporting a man in the compactor. Fire department personnel were able to pull Smeeton from the hopper, but he had already suffered severe injuries. He was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead a short time later.

Smeeton's official cause of death was trauma to his head and upper body with chest compression, according to results of an autopsy performed Friday at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The death was ruled accidental.

Reichard said officers have spoken to potential witnesses at the transfer station. There were no surveillance cameras in the area where Smeeton was found, they said.

Smeeton's pickup truck was at the scene, backed up to the hopper where trash is deposited. A couch and other refuse were still in the bed of the truck, police said. The hopper is surrounded by what Reichard described as a 2-foot-high bumper. He said there is an estimated 10- to 15-foot drop into the compactor below.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Detective Division of the New London Police Department at (860) 447-1481.

i.larraneta@theday.com

Day staff writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.

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