Man killed in Waterford hit-and-run was a 'New London character'
New London — When word spread of the hit-and-run in Waterford that killed a local man named Kim Weeks last month, many city business owners were unfamiliar with the name.
But when the man they knew only as Kenny, a guy who regularly dropped in to take out the trash or talk sports, stopped showing up, they came to a realization: The two were one and the same.
“He was this type of guy where I didn’t know how much I liked him until this happened,” said Rich Harris, owner of Rich’s Auto Body on Truman Street. “I miss his visits, for sure.”
It was about 7:33 a.m. Jan. 19 that police responded to the Crystal Mall for the report of an unconscious person there. Upon arrival, they discovered a deceased man lying on the ground between the roadway and the parking lot of the mall at 850 Route 85.
Police, who later identified the man as 61-year-old Weeks, said their investigation into the death is continuing.
For years, the tall, skinny black man with a sense of style followed a similar routine, according to Daddy Jack’s chef Jack Chaplin.
It seemed to Chaplin that Weeks often would start his day with breakfast from the church at 66 Union St. — once First Congregational Church, now Engaging Heaven Church.
He’d then saunter over to the auto shop on Truman Street, generally to chat about Yankees baseball, Harris said.
After an afternoon slumber, Weeks would hit places like New London Ink, Daddy Jack’s and Exchange Bar and Grill, all located on Bank Street. He had an unspoken agreement of sorts with some of the folks there: If he performed a small task, they’d give him a little money.
So he washed windows. Took out trash. Shoveled snow. Swept floors.
“People might refer to him as a bum ... but he was far from a bum,” said Johnny Rivero, a tattoo artist at New London Ink. “He would work for what he got.”
Rivero said on the occasions he lent Weeks $5, Weeks would show up in the next day or so asking what he could do to pay it back.
Chaplin recalled something similar.
“He’d say, ‘Can a brother get a loan, an advance,’” Chaplin said, laughing. “Sure enough he’d come back the next day and redeem it.”
Rivero called Weeks a “helpful, considerate guy.”
“I completely trusted the man,” Rivero said. “If I was in the shop and he was cleaning, I would leave him in the shop and not worry about a thing.”
Rivero said he knew something was up when he didn’t see Weeks for three straight days. He was sad when he heard the news.
Chaplin, Harris and Rivero said they knew little of Weeks’ private life, including whether he had contact with relatives or where he stayed at nights. Their conversations with Weeks revolved mostly around sports or the great lasagna the soup kitchen had served that day.
Chaplin said he called the man with the sharp baseball caps “Home School,” a nickname of endearment he used for friends in his youth.
“He was real, real cool,” Chaplin said. “You liked having him around.”
When darkness fell, Chaplin said Weeks would become a neighborhood watchdog of sorts.
Chaplin recounted a time when a college student took an accordion from a local artist standing near Muddy Waters and began messing around with it.
“Kenny calmly said, ‘Hey, that’s not yours, you don’t need to be picking it up,’” Chaplin said.
The student listened.
Sometimes, Chaplin was on the receiving end of Weeks’ charity.
One night when Chaplin’s tire was flat and his spare was, too, Weeks showed up out of nowhere, rolling the tire to the nearest station for a fill-up.
When Chaplin’s finicky car wouldn’t start because while there was gas in it, there wasn’t enough, Weeks again headed to the station to help out.
Other times, Weeks would alert Chaplin and others when people he deemed shady were lurking about.
“He was a funny guy, just a character,” Chaplin said. “A New London character.”
At the Exchange, a framed T-shirt hanging on the wall shows how many lives Weeks affected. The shirt contains the signatures of more than 20 people who went on a bar crawl in Weeks' honor. Some of them are accompanied by heartfelt notes, such as "you were my angel, more than once."
An inscription at the bottom of the frame reads "In loving memory of Kenny, 'The Mayor.'" Weeks garnered that nickname, a bartender said, because "everybody knew Kenny."
Working in conjunction with state police, Waterford police quickly identified and seized a blue Toyota Sienna minivan they believe was involved in the incident last month.
On Thursday, Waterford police Lt. Timothy Silva said police are “confident” the vehicle they have is the one that was involved. He said officers served a search-and-seizure warrant on the vehicle and located potential evidence related to the investigation.
Police have not yet submitted any arrest warrants in the case, Silva said, and were unable to locate any living blood relatives of Weeks.
Chaplin and Rivero are tossing around the idea of hosting some kind of memorial for Weeks, one Rivero said likely would help pay for funeral expenses. But first, they’re waiting to hear more regarding the situation.
“He lived the way he wanted to live,” Chaplin said. “Over all the years, I never saw him depressed. Some people have so much and they’re never happy. I don’t think he had much, but he was always in the positive.”
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