Man accused in Groton killing ordered 'removed' by Canadian immigration officials

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The 30-year-old man who is wanted in the fatal shooting of Joey Gingerella has been detained by Canadian immigration officials since he attempted to enter the country on Tuesday at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ontario, according to a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency.

Dante A. Hughes is in the process of being deported back to the United States, according to officials here and in Canada, but it is unclear how soon he could be returned to face a charge of murder. His next detention review hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20.

Hughes is accused of shooting Gingerella, 24, outside Ryan's Pub about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, when Gingerella left the bar to try to stop Hughes from assaulting a woman in the parking lot, according to witnesses.

Gingerella was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, where he was pronounced dead. The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said he died of gunshot wounds to the extremities and torso and ruled the death a homicide.

Gingerella's family has scheduled a service for 2 p.m. Saturday at Robert E. Fitch Senior High School in Groton.

Witnesses said Hughes fled the Fort Hill Road bar on foot after the shooting. Later that morning, state and local police surrounded a nearby home at 2-4 Waco Court, which Hughes had listed as his address in a recent arrest, but Hughes was not found. A manhunt ensued for Hughes, who was deemed by police to be armed and dangerous, and investigators contacted his family members and associates in their efforts to find him.

On Tuesday, Groton Town Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. said detectives learned Hughes was attempting to flee the country. They found a short time later that he had been detained at the border.

The process of returning Hughes to Connecticut from Canada is different from the extradition process that occurs when those accused of crimes are arrested in other states within the United States and held as fugitives from justice.

Canadian officials, bound by strict privacy laws, have not disclosed where Hughes is being held.

"Right now, everybody is trying to adhere to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which is Canada's principal immigration legislation," said Nick Parham, acting commander of the Groton Town Police Detective Division. "Hughes is currently undergoing the immigration process, and the number one guideline they go by is that if a person has committed or been convicted of an offense outside of Canada that is equivalent to an offense inside of Canada, they would be in the process of deporting him."

Tim Armaly, a spokesman for the Southeastern Ontario Region of the Canada Border Services Agency, said in an email that the CBSA detained Hughes Tuesday after he attempted to enter the country at the Rainbow Bridge. Located in a major tourist destination, the bridge connects Niagara Falls, N.Y., to Niagara Falls, Ontario, for vehicle and foot traffic.

On Wednesday, Hughes appeared before the Immigration and Refugee Board, which is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal, according to Armaly. He was deemed inadmissible to the country 'for past criminality,' and a removal order was issued. Immigration officials are detaining him based on the grounds that he is unlikely to appear for future proceedings, Armaly said in the email. His next detention review will take place on Dec. 20.

Back in Groton, Parham said the town police have been in constant contact with the border services agency and is providing it with documentation concerning Hughes.

Following Gingerella's death, the town police obtained a warrant charging Hughes with murder.

Once he returns to Connecticut, Hughes will be arraigned in Superior Court and prosecuted by the New London County State's Attorney's office.

State's Attorney Michael L. Regan said Thursday that his office has been in contact with Canadian officials.

"Whatever Canada asks for, we'll provide," Regan said.

Hughes appears for several years to have lived out of state, where he acquired a criminal record. Public records indicate he was convicted of unlawfully carrying a weapon, a misdemeanor, in Houston, Texas, in 2005. In 2006, he was convicted of possession of a controlled substance, a felony, in St. Tammany County, La., and sentenced to two years of probation.

In 2010, while living in Sugarland, Texas, he was charged with criminal trespass and possession of a controlled substance. He was convicted of the drug charge, which was a felony, and sentenced to four years in prison.

In April, Groton Town police charged him with interfering with an officer, using a cellphone while driving and driving without a license. In June, he received a fully suspended six-month prison sentence followed by one year of conditional discharge.

 k.florin@theday.com

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