Girlfriend of Groton murder suspect appears in court

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The woman at the center of the Dec. 11 shooting death of Joey Gingerella appeared Wednesday in New London Superior Court on charges that she hampered the police investigation.

Gingerella, 24, was fatally shot in the parking lot of Ryan's Pub on Fort Hill Road in Groton.

Groton Town Police allege Dante A. Hughes shot Gingerella when Gingerella and other bar patrons attempted to stop Hughes from beating up his girlfriend, Latoya S. Knight, in the parking lot.

Knight, 34, of 4 Waco Court, Groton, was charged with interfering with police two days after the shooting and released on a $25,000 surety bond. On Wednesday, she appeared for the first time in the court where major crimes are heard. Public Defender Kevin C. Barrs, who stood with her, said she qualifies for a public defender and that one would be appointed. He entered a not guilty plea on her behalf, and Judge Hillary B. Strackbein continued the case to Feb. 1.

Knight left with a man and woman who had accompanied her to court.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Knight identified the shooting suspect as Justin Davenport of Norwich when police questioned her in the parking lot of Ryan's Pub following the shooting. A photograph of Hughes from Knight's phone, along with Davenport's name, was broadcast to members of the police department. Officer Marvel Bennett recognized the person in the picture as Hughes based on recent contact with him.

"This intentional misidentification hampered efforts to identify and locate Hughes immediately after the homicide," Det. Robert Emery wrote in the warrant affidavit.

Knight told the police that Hughes had been living with her and her four children recently. Police surrounded the Waco Court home in the hours after the shooting, but did not capture Hughes until Dec. 13, when he attempted to enter Canada via the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He is being held in lieu of $550,000 cash and is due back in court on Jan. 31.

Witnesses to the incident told police that Hughes and Knight came into the bar shortly before closing time and ordered drinks. As they stood near the pool table, Knight asked Hughes for the car keys, slapped the beer out of his hand and went outside. Hughes followed her out. Gingerella and other patrons went to the parking lot to ensure Knight was OK and intervened when they saw Hughes punching Knight.

The witnesses told police Hughes pulled out a gun and shot Gingerella three times, then walked away. Gingerella was pronounced dead at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London at 2:14 a.m.

In a follow-up interview with detectives, Knight denied any involvement in a physical altercation with Hughes, saying her bloody nose was the result of excessive crying. She also denied any knowledge of Hughes' involvement in the shooting.

k.florin@theday.com

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