Chyung's past relationships with women explored at murder trial

Chihan Eric Chyung's past relationships with women came into focus briefly Thursday at his murder trial in New London Superior Court.

The 50-year-old Norwalk man is accused of intentionally shooting his newlywed wife, Paige Anne Bennett, at their Taftville home on June 2, 2009. He admits shooting her but contends his 9 mm Glock discharged accidentally.

Charged with murder and manslaughter with a firearm, Chyung began testifying on his own behalf late Tuesday and remained on the witness stand through Thursday afternoon. On Thursday, over the objection of Chyung's attorneys, Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed allowed prosecutor David J. Smith to ask Chyung about a former girlfriend who says he threatened her in 1995 with a Glock 9 mm. Pamela Febles of Stamford contacted Norwich police in September 2012 and provided a written statement after reading a newspaper story about Chyung.

Smith asked Chyung if he recalled "getting into a domestic argument with Febles."

Chyung said no.

The prosecutor asked if he remembered slamming Febles against the wall and bruising her body.

Chyung said no.

"Do you remember rushing her, slamming her against the wall and putting a 9 mm handgun to her head?" Smith asked.

"No I don't, sir," Chyung responded.

Chyung was not arrested in connection with the incident and it is unclear whether Febles reported it to police.

While the defense claimed the Febles allegation was dissimilar to the incident at question, too remote in time and too prejudicial, prosecutor Marissa Goldberg argued that prior misconduct of a similar nature is allowed into evidence if the defendant asserts his conduct in the present case is accidental.

She cited an arson case in which misconduct from 16 years earlier was allowed.

"The conduct is similar enough that it should prove this was no accident here," Goldberg said. Jongbloed allowed the questioning, saying it would not be unduly prejudicial. She cited as similarities to the case at hand the context of a domestic incident involving a Glock 9 mm and an allegation of bruising. The judge instructed the jury that the testimony was not offered for the truth of the matter but only as it may bear on the absence of mistake or accident.

Smith also touched briefly on Chyung's testimony that he decided to take his 9 mm that night because he had concerns about Bennett and was unsure when he would be returning to the Norwich home. Smith asked him if he had ever left a gun at a woman's house in the past, and Chyung said yes.

Following his arrest in 2009, police seized three additional guns belonging to Chyung from the home of another former girlfriend in Milford. Earlier this week, Chyung testified that he had lived with the woman for 12 years, but by the time he met Bennett in 2008, their relationship had deteriorated to the point where they were merely housemates sleeping in separate bedrooms.

In 2011, Judge Patrick J. Clifford granted a defense request that the three guns, a Marlin .22 rifle, a Colt .357 magnum and Heckler & Koch .308 assault rifle, be turned over to someone who could legally possess and sell them so that Chyuung could use the proceeds for his defense.

While Chyung said he stored his Glock in a nightstand drawer in the Norwich home with the magazine loaded and inserted, he testified that the guns in Milford were kept in a locked box in a home that was "well protected" by dogs.

When the trial resumes today, the defense is expected to call as its last witness Gregory A. Danis, owner of four firearms businesses in the Lowell, Mass., area, who will testify about the safety features of the Glock 9 mm. The defense had also planned to call an animator who worked with Chyung to recreate the shooting but canceled his testimony after determining that the animation was inaccurate and there was no time to make corrections, according to attorney Brian Woolf.

k.florin@theday.com

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