Alleged Strangler, Victim's Family Appear In Court

Jose A. Cartagena's survivors got their first look at the man accused of strangling him Monday, but received little information about what happened in the Poquonnock Bridge section of Groton on April 13.

Dirren T. Conyers, 31, of 33 North Road, was arraigned on charges of first-degree manslaughter and unlawful restraint. Conyers had posted a $250,000 bond on April 21 after being charged in connection with Cartagena's strangling death.

Conyers, who came to court with a group of supporters, stood before Judge Kevin P. McMahon for just a few moments with defense attorney Anthony Basilica at his side. The judge transferred the case to the“Part A” court on Huntington Street where major crimes are tried.

The arrest warrant detailing Groton Town police's case against Conyers was to remain sealed through today, so details of the alleged crime were not available.

Cartagena's wife, Maria Sanchez, and another relative, Lydia Santos, came to court with a friend to learn more about what happened to Cartagena. Speaking through a Spanish interpreter, they said he was a hard-working man who provided for many people, including his mother, nieces and nephews and his three children in Puerto Rico.

A 36-year-old native of Puerto Rico, Cartagena had lived in Connecticut about eight years, his relatives said. He worked at PCC Structural, a Groton company that makes jet-engine parts.

”He was a good man. Hard-working,” said Sanchez, who married him three years ago.“The only thing he ever did was work.”

When he wasn't working, he spent time with family members and sometimes went to a local bar.

Cartagena's relatives don't know what happened to Cartagena that Sunday morning, and don't know the person who is accused in his death.

They said Cartagena called Santos, whose children are his nieces and nephews, at about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 12 to say he was going to a local bar.

Police said they were called to a disturbance on Industrial Drive at 2:35 a.m. on Sunday morning. There, in a parked car, they found Cartagena, who had suffered an undisclosed body trauma and was unresponsive. The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said he died from strangulation and ruled his death a homicide.

The family suspects there were more people involved with the crime. As for the disturbance that led to Cartagena's death,“apparently it was so loud a lot of people heard it,” said a family friend. They said some people may be afraid to come forward.

”I only want justice to be served,” said his wife.

Conyers had turned himself into police on April 21 knowing they held a warrant for his arrest. He was released on bond within two hours. On Monday, he arrived in court about an hour late. His next court date is May 27.

Cartagena's relatives said there were two funerals for him - one here and another in Orocovis, Puerto Rico, where he was buried.
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