Stabbing victim remembered: 'When she came into a room, she lit it up'
Waterford — At the close of a candlelight vigil Friday night for Corina Zukowski, the 25-year-old Waterford native who was killed Monday at the Starlight Inn in Niantic, her father, Felipe Rodriguez, encouraged about 100 gatherers to comfort one another with a hug.
But much of the crowd immediately converged toward Rodriguez, with family, friends, co-workers and strangers alike lining up to offer embraces. The condolences came just moments after Rodriguez delivered an emotional plea to support those who suffer from domestic abuse.
"We're not just doing this for Corina. We're doing this for everybody who's been in an abusive relationship," he said. "You say to yourself, 'Hey, get away from him.' But when someone's in love, they're not thinking correctly. I feel like I failed. But if I could help just one person get away from an abusive relationship, I think it will be well worth it and I think Corina will be so happy about it."
Police have charged Avery Hallbrooks, 28, of Bronx, N.Y., with fatally stabbing Zukowski, his partner for the past two years. Hallbrooks confessed that he stabbed Zukowski after a fight about his drug use. He is due back in court on Jan. 8.
Family members say they were worried Hallbrooks was controlling and abusive to Zukowski, a mother of three who worked at the McDonald's in Flanders.
"No one should live in fear of the person they love," Rodriguez said, describing domestic abuse as an attempt to "gain and maintain control over you."
With his son, Joshua, and Zukowski's aunt, Meredith Barone, at his side, Rodriguez noted his daughter would become part of a harrowing statistic — one of the nearly three women who are killed every day in domestic violence.
"I will keep fighting for her every day," he said. "She was a very beautiful girl. When she came into a room, she lit it up."
Barone read a poem — "The Dash" by Linda Ellis — to the group, almost all clutching candles and wearing purple and silver ribbons in honor of Zukowski. The poem mentions that what matters "most of all was the dash" between years on a tombstone, with Barone saying, "Corina's years within her dash are the true essence of how she lived, laughed and loved."
Barone said in an interview that for Zukowski, "everything was for her three boys. She always kept a job, worked hard, and earned money. She wanted to follow in her father's footsteps" and become a corrections officer.
"To see a gathering like this, everybody came together, cohesive, interconnected. This is encouraging to see this many people show up because intimate partner violence is so prevalent," Barone added. "Corina will be missed so much and thought of every day because of how many lives she touched in a special way."
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