Man mulling plea deal in Norwich artist's stabbing death

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Elmar Baker, who is charged with murder in the Oct. 30, 2018, fatal stabbing of Norwich artist Jo-Jo Kolodnicki Jr., has received an offer from the state to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and serve between 15 and 20 years in prison.

Baker, 39, who is being held in lieu of $1.5 million bond at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution, told New London Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein on Thursday that he doesn't see how the state could prove he intentionally killed Kolodnicki and that he wants more time to think about the offer.

The judge continued the case to Dec. 11, when Baker will be asked to decide whether he is accepting or rejecting the offer. Prosecutor Thomas M. Delillo has given Baker the option of having his attorney, Carmine J. Giuliano, argue at sentencing for a prison term of 15 to 20 years, or accepting a "flat" sentence of 18 years in prison.  Should he reject the offers, Baker would be tried on the murder charge.

According to court documents and testimony, the victim, Norwich artist and mailman Kolodnicki, was jealous of Baker, who was working and spending time with Kolodnicki's wife, Linda.

Linda Kolodnicki said she and Baker worked together on Oct. 30, 2018, and that she saw her husband's car in the parking lot as she and Baker pulled into his condominium complex at 55 Renee Drive in Colchester.

While she and her husband spoke, the state alleges Baker went into his condominium and retrieved a wood-handled knife. Linda Kolodnicki said he approached the couple, and Jo-Jo Kolodnicki turned to him and yelled: "What are you (expletive) doing with my wife?" Linda Kolodnicki said Baker remained calm and spoke to him in a low voice. She said Joseph Kolodnicki pushed Baker with both hands on his chest, she said, and she left to go into the apartment to get Baker's fiancé. As she left, she saw her husband punch Baker.

She said by the time she returned to the scene from the apartment, her husband was on the ground unconscious. The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said he died of a stab wound to the torso. State police said they found the alleged murder weapon, a bloodied knife, in an adjacent field the next day.

During his court appearance, Baker said he didn't understand how he could be charged with murder.

"You're saying in order for it to be a murder charge, I ... followed and killed this man I didn't even know," he said.

Prosecutor Paul J. Narducci, who was standing in for Delillo, said people often don't understand that intent to kill, which must be proved in a murder case, can be formed in a moment.

"He doesn't have to wake up in the morning and say, 'I intend to kill this man,'" Narducci said.

k.florin@theday.com

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