Ex-wife details abuse by man accused in New London murder

Lynn Reilly of Ladson, S.C., ex wife of accused murderer Christopher Petteway  poses for a photo on a visit to The Day Thursday, October 25, 2018. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Lynn Reilly of Ladson, S.C., ex wife of accused murderer Christopher Petteway poses for a photo on a visit to The Day Thursday, October 25, 2018. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — Lynn Reilly says she has survivor's guilt.

Her ex-husband, Christopher Petteway, abused her for years, she says, but she escaped to a better life.

Robert Parise did not.

City police say Petteway, 42, fatally stabbed Parise, his former partner and housemate, multiple times in the legs and torso in the kitchen of Parise's Cottage Street home on Oct. 4.

Reilly, who has known Petteway since they attended junior high school together in Amityville, N.Y., and who was married to him for about five years in the mid-2000s, said during an interview last week that Parise's death could have been avoided. She said Petteway has never received adequate treatment for mental illness and that authorities should have taken his earlier acts of domestic violence more seriously.

Petteway had domestic violence cases in Virginia, Florida and New York dating back to 2001, according to public records.

Petteway was incarcerated over the summer for attacking Parise in June, and had told Parise he was going to kill him upon his release. He resolved his court case quickly by pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and threatening, and served 30 days in prison.

Parise was working with Safe Futures, the area agency that assists victims of domestic violence, and had been assessed as being at high risk of being killed. Safe Futures staff said they needed more time to work with Parise.

A judge had issued a protective order prohibiting Petteway from having contact with Parise, but it had been modified, with Parise's permission, after Petteway said he had nowhere to live upon his release from prison. Petteway told court officials prior to his initial appearance that he had been living most recently in transitional housing in Bridgeport and working at temporary jobs. He told police he had a key to Parise's house and "went in and just stabbed him up."

After the stabbing, Parise was bleeding profusely and barely able to speak but was able to identify Petteway as his attacker, according to police. He underwent emergency surgery but died about 11 hours later at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Captured a short time later, Petteway told police, "I hope he dies," and "I got him as many times as I could." He insisted on smiling for his mug shot.

Petteway's ex-wife, who lives in South Carolina, said Petteway called her after the stabbing, though she declined to discuss what he said. She said that once she learned the details of the crime from news reports, she decided to come to New London to "see it for myself" and to meet with police and court officials and domestic violence advocates.

She attended Petteway's Oct. 24 court appearance, where she said she unwittingly sat among a group of Parise's family members. She said when Petteway came out of the lockup, he looked toward where she was sitting and and mouthed "I'm so sorry."

She also agreed to an interview at The Day's office.

Reilly says she had several things to say during her trip to New London, the most important of them being: "Don't underestimate Christopher Quindale Petteway."

"I needed to let people know, this isn't your average domestic violence offender," she said. "This is a repeat offender who has not gotten better over the years. He's gotten worse."

Reilly said she and Petteway dated in junior high school "as a joke." Back then, she said, he was a "sweet, charismatic, responsible and hardworking person." They broke up a few years later, and Petteway ended up dropping out of school during his senior year after impregnating a girl. Petteway's daughter from that relationship is 22 and he has another child, as well, Reilly said.

Reilly and Petteway got back together in their 20s, moved in together and married in 2004. He worked sporadically in landscaping, she said. She said she remembers the first time he slapped her in the face. She hit him back. The abuse escalated, she said. He choked her until she was unconsious. He held a knife to her neck.

He controlled the money, making it impossible for her to buy a bus ticket. If he hurt her so badly that she had to go to the hospital, he would accompany her. Petteway continued to attack Reilly even after she moved into her parents' home. He cut through a window screen to gain entry and confronted her in a bedroom, according to a police report.

Arrested in August 2007 for violating a protective order that prohibited Petteway from having contact with Reilly, he called her from jail and told her he would beat her to a bloody mess and blow her head off when he got out.

She sought help, but it was not readily available. She said she called a domestic violence shelter, but it required her to complete a 20-minute screening interview over the phone before it would tell her whether she qualified for help. She said that one of the most important points she wanted to make about domestic violence was that those who want to help victims should listen fully to their stories.

She divorced Petteway while he was incarcerated, Reilly said, but has never been able to let her guard down when it comes to him.

Reilly said Petteway is likely to try every legal tactic available as his murder case proceeds through the court system and she hopes police and prosecutors "dot every i and cross every t."  

At Petteway's last appearance in New London Superior Court, Judge Hillary B. Strackbein continued his case to Nov. 20 and granted public defender Kevin C. Barrs' request to order a competency evaluation for Petteway. 

Clinicians for the state will evaluate him in prison to determine whether he understands the legal proceedings against him and is capable of assisting in his defense. Petteway is being held at the Garner Correctional Institution, which is the Department of Correction's facility for prisoners with mental health issues.

k.florin@theday.com 

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