Chyung testifies at murder trial about his 'love affair' with wife

They met at a biker bar, and there was a spark the first time they kissed.

Chihan Eric Chyung told a New London jury how he met and fell and love with the woman he would eventually shoot and kill as he began testifying Tuesday at his murder trial. When the trial resumes today, he is expected to describe the shooting itself, which he says was accidental.

The 50-year-old Norwalk native is charged with murder and first-degree manslaughter with a firearm.

Smiling and speaking softly, Chyung told the jury how he met Paige Anne Bennett at a "popular destination for motorcyclists" on a Sunday in the summer of 2008. Though he only described their meeting place as "a popular destination for motorcyclists," Bennett's family members have said the couple met at the Back Door Cafe in Chaplin.

"I walked outside to get a cigarette and a pretty little red-head girl came up behind me ..." Chyung told the jury.

His biker friend was urging him to leave, so he and Bennett exchanged basic information and phone numbers and a kiss goodbye.

"She always said that when our lips first met there was a spark," Chyung testified.

Chyung called Bennett the next day, and within a couple of months moved in with her in East Killingly. He said they both loved the outdoors, listened to the same music and had the same "body chemistry."

"It was an intense love affair," he said.

They moved to a home at 257 Norwich Ave., where a justice of the peace married them during a small ceremony in May 2009. Three weeks later Chyung shot and killed Bennett. She was 46.

Chyung's pleasant demeanor on the witness stand is a contrast to the disheveled and emotional man the jury saw on a videotaped recording of his interrogation at the Norwich Police Department following the shooting, but much of his testimony under direct examination by attorney Kathleen E. Rallo Tuesday covered the same ground.

From the witness stand, Chyung began describing the dispute that led to him packing a suitcase and shooting Bennett. He came home with a new fishing rod and she with a set of tires for which he felt she had overpaid. After an hour of arguing, he called the Wal-Mart where she had purchased the tires. She drove there for a partial refund, telling him she didn't care if he was there when she returned.

"The tire thing had become a pretty big issue," Chyung testified.

They talked on the phone several times, and it didn't get any better, Chyung said. He was very frustrated. He threw the house phone and broke it. He was going to take a shower. He was sick to his stomach. He packed a bag. He broke an ashtray and dumped a basket of laundry as his frustration increased.

When the trial resumes today, Chyung is expected to testify about what happened when Bennett returned home. He will then be subject to cross-examination by prosecutor David J. Smith.

Also testifying for the defense was Chyung's close friend, Edmond St. Lawrence of Quantico, Md., whom Chyung called from the highway after leaving the scene of the shooting. St. Lawrence said his lifelong friend was so distraught that he was almost hysterical and that the phone kept cutting off. He said when Chyung told him "She's dead," he initially thought Chyung was talking about a dog, because that was something they had in common. When Chyung told him his gun had gone off and he shot Bennett, St. Lawrence said he told him to go back and call 911.

Chyung, who is free on $1 million bond, said he is now living in Norwalk with a woman he has known for about 20 years.

k.florin@theday.com

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