Chyung headed for second murder trial

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Chihan Eric Chyung, whose conviction in the June 2, 2009, shooting death of his wife, Paige Anne Bennett, was overturned by the state Supreme Court in April, turned down an offer Thursday to plead guilty in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence.

New London Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein said his case would be added to the trial list. He will be tried in Norwich before Judge Arthur C. Hadden. If convicted of murder, he could receive a maximum sentence of 60 years.

The 54-year-old former Norwich resident was convicted of murder and manslaughter at a trial in 2014 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. According to testimony and court documents, just 17 days after Chyung and Bennett were married, Chyung shot Bennett, 46, after the couple fought about expenses. Chyung admitted on the witness stand that he shot Bennett but claimed his Glock 9 mm discharged accidentally when he attempted to pack it in a suitcase and leave their Taftville home. The state contended he intentionally killed Bennett.

In his appeal, attorney Conrad O. Seifert successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the conviction was legally inconsistent. The murder charge required that the jury find Chyung acted intentionally, while the manslaughter charge required a finding that he acted with reckless disregard for human life. The high court overturned the conviction and returned the case to the trial court.

Chyung is now represented by attorney Cheryl E. Heffernan and is being held in lieu of $3 million at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. He appeared in court Thursday in a neon orange prison suit. Though he had cut his dark hair prior to his trial three years ago, he has grown it long again and was wearing it in a ponytail.

The victim's family members were in court for the "accept or reject date" and are planning to attend his second trial. Members of the Survivors of Homicide support group also were present.

The case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney David J. Smith.

k.florin@theday.com

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