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Suicide at End of Spa Closure Controversy

Published 05/20/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 05/20/2014 01:26 PM

By Karena Garrity
Zip06

The questions surrounding the sudden Mothers Day closing of Rituals Spa on Water Street were met with a tragic answer last weekend with the discovery by police that the owner, Tom Wilson of Madison, had hanged himself.

The Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that the cause of death was suicide from neck compression. Wilson, who began the business in November 2004, was found dead in his Madison home. At press time, the timeline of the man’s final actions could not be clearly established.

The closing had gained substantial attention. After a pre-Mothers Day gift certificate sale that netted approximately $18,000, the spa’s doors were closed and locked without reason or forewarning. The spa’s approximately 20 employees were suddenly jobless and customers tried to get their money back for gift cards by contacting their credit card companies.

The tone of shock and anger regarding the closure turned to shock and sorrow after news of Wilson’s suicide became public. Former employees and associates posted messages on Facebook expressing condolences for his family, including his five sons, with some acknowledging difficulties faced by Wilson. The local business community is also reacting to the news.

“This is such sad news,” said Janet Testa, co-executive director of the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce. “Tom was a member of the Chamber for several years. This is awful, and we are all saddened by this tragedy.”

Testa said that several customers of Rituals have been calling the Chamber for advice as to what to do about gift cards. She has been directing them to the Connecticut attorney general’s office at
attorney.general@ct.gov.

Larry Lupone, the landlord of the Rituals Spa building, is like many in that he’s reconciling the loss of life with the impact the closure has made.

“Number one this is a tragedy, but number two closing the spa was committing a crime, and number three the employees weren’t able to earn the money they work hard for, which wasn’t fair,” Lupone said. “This is a shame, but I am very optimistic. I have had an enormous interest from people who want to open the spa and see this as a business opportunity. The spa will re-open under a new name; new, quality ownership; and I will meet with the employees who want to come back to work.”

The Office of the Attorney General gave this statement: “Our office learned last week that the Rituals Spa had closed shortly after selling a number of gift certificates. We were in the very early stages of seeking additional information from the business—as we regularly do in such circumstances—when we became aware of reports that its owner had died. We will continue to evaluate the situation to determine what further steps, if any, to take.”

The Department of Consumer Protection released the following statement regarding the gift certificates: “Consumers should still send us a written complaint with copy of gift certificate and any representations, preferably via email using our complaint form, to dcp.frauds@ct.gov. If the consumer made the purchase via credit card and they are still within their charge-back period, they should follow the dispute procedures with their credit card company.”

Customers who wish to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General may call the Assistance Unit at 860-808-5420 or complete a complaint forms on the website, www.ct.gov/ag.

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