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Safe Futures plans candlelight vigil to remember beloved client who was murdered

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New London — Safe Futures is planning a candlelight vigil next Thursday to honor the memory of Robert Parise, who was fatally stabbed Oct. 4 in New London, and who was a client of the agency that serves victims of domestic violence.

The event is open to the public and will take place at 6 p.m. on Nov. 1 outside the Safe Futures office at 16 Jay St., New London.

Parise's older brother Joseph Parise, who also was his business partner at the Hair Stop salon in Waterford, is one of the scheduled speakers. He said the family has received hundreds of cards and has been overwhelmed and humbled by the community support.

"His life mattered to a lot of people," Joseph Parise said by phone Thursday. "His loss is a great one."

Katherine Verano, executive director of Safe Futures, said the vigil would serve as a healing event for the Safe Futures staff, who worked with Parise, and for the entire community.

According to New London Police, Parise's former housemate and partner, Christopher Petteway, went to Parise's home at 25 Brainard St. on Oct. 4 and stabbed him multiple times. Petteway had been incarcerated this past summer for a domestic violence incident involving Parise, and Parise had told staff from Safe Futures that Petteway had threatened to kill him when he was released from prison.

Petteway is charged with murder and violation of a protective order and is being held at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. Members of Parise's family and Petteway's ex-wife, Lynn Reilly, who said she also was abused by Petteway, were in the courtroom as he made his first appearance this past week in the New London court where major crimes are heard.

Joseph Parise, a pastor at the Anchor Church in Waterford, serves as a chaplain for the Waterford Police Department and often accompanies officers to deliver news to family members of an untimely death or other tragedy. On Oct. 4, he was on the other side of the door.

"I never, never could have imagined the knock on my door," Parise said by phone Thursday. "As a chaplain and as a pastor that often bring bad news to families, I can now say I truly know how it feels. And it doesn't feel good."

Waterford police officers in uniform turned out in force for a celebration of Robert Parise's life that was held at Filomena's restaurant.

Verano, from Safe Futures, said the tragedy serves as an important reminder that men are also the victims of domestic violence. Nationally, about 95 percent of victims who report domestic violence are women, according to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. But verbal and physical violence among intimate partners is not gender-specific.

"It's opening a lot of people's eyes, for this to happen to someone who was so loved," Verano said.

Safe Futures has a number of programs designed to engage men in the prevention of domestic violence and make them feel comfortable coming forward when they are victimized. The agency now has a man, Andrew Barker of Lyme, as the chairman of its board of directors, Verano said. Barker had served as the board's treasurer for the past two years.   

k.florin@theday.com

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