Jacques sentenced to 60 years for Norwich murder
Jean Jacques received the maximum sentence of 60 years in prison Monday for the June 15, 2015, murder of Casey Chadwick in Norwich, a case that sparked outrage because Jacques, a Haitian national, previously had been been convicted of attempted murder and was not deported after serving a lengthy prison sentence.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed cited the "horrendous violent attack" on Chadwick, who had suffered stab wounds that penetrated her carotid artery and jugular vein and pierced her brain stem before being left in a closet in her Spaulding Street apartment.
The judge also cited public safety considerations, telling Jacques he had not returned from incarceration with the intention of following the law.
Jacques, 41, maintains his innocence and said Chadwick was a close friend that he would never harm.
Family members and friends of the victim filled one side of the courtroom along with members of the Survivors of Homicide support group and police officers who had worked on the case.
Wendy Hartling, the victim's mother, suppressed an exclamation of joy after hearing the sentence, then broke into tears.
Since Chadwick's death, Hartling has been working with New London attorney Chester Fairlie to reform immigration policy, and in April traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Connecticut's federal delegation and tell her story to a congressional oversight committee.
Her daughter, she said, never would have died if the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had done its job.
Jacques was released from prison to immigration officials but released when the agency had trouble finding the proper paperwork to deport him to Haiti.
In her impact statement to the court, Hartling called Jacques a coward and said no parent should ever have to bury a child. She said the tragedy of her daughter's death has compelled her to become an advocate for victims and reformation of deportation policy.
"Thousands of immigrants who commit heinous crimes and should be deported are instead released into society," she said.
Fairlie said 86,000 so-called criminal aliens were released by ICE over the past four years after serving time for aggravated crimes.
In the 1996 case, a shooting on Laurel Hill Avenue in Norwich, Jacques' former girlfriend suffered a serious head injury and her new boyfriend died, according to prosecutor David J. Smith. Jacques, initially charged with murder, was convicted of attempted murder in connection with the girlfriend's injury and criminal possession of a firearm.
Evidence at the April 2016 murder trial revealed that Chadwick's stabbing death was likely motivated by drugs. Chadwick's boyfriend admitted he was selling drugs from the apartment. He was not home on the night of the murder, but received a text from Chadwick saying Jacques, known as "Zoe," was at the apartment.
During the investigation, police found Jacques' DNA in blood spatters in the apartment and, after receiving information from a jailhouse informant, found crack cocaine, marijuana and Chadwick's cellphone in a hole in the bathroom wall in Jacques' apartment.
The prosecutor asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence, citing the nature of the crime and Jacques' history. He said Jacques has received 28 disciplinary tickets during his years of incarceration. Smith said Jacques claims not to use drugs or alcohol, so it appears his activity in the drug trade is "strictly for commerce."
"In this case, I don't see any reason at all to mitigate down from the maximum sentence," he said.
Defense attorney Sebastian DeSantis said Jacques grew up in poverty in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, living in a hut with a tin roof and no water and electricity and that during his upbringing, constant strife, political unrest and violence were the norm.
Jacques said in a presentencing report that his father was taken out of church by soldiers and executed in front of him, and that he fled to the United States through Cuba when he was 17 or 18 years old.
DeSantis said he wasn't trying to make excuses for Jacques but to present information that might mitigate the punishment.
He said Jacques plans to appeal his conviction.
"There's no doubt this is a horrible crime," DeSantis said. "Nobody deserves to die like that. It was a heinous crime and senseless. The dilemma is that Mr. Jacques maintains his innocence and will continue to do so."
DeSantis said it was a case about drugs, not immigration.