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UPDATED: DCF says woman charged in death of son recently asked for help

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A New London woman charged with murder in connection to the death of her young son appeared virtually in court Monday and was ordered held on a $2 million bond.

In a statement released Monday evening, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families said she had recently asked for help and reported that she thought someone had hurt her son.  

Tiffany Farrauto, 33, of 242 Nautilus Drive, Apt. 208, was arrested Sunday and charged with murder and risk of injury to a minor after her 4-year-old son was found dead in their apartment.

Police had not yet identified the boy, but Farrauto's mother, Cindy Steenson of Westerly, said at a candlelight vigil Monday evening that her grandson's name was David Jasmin.

Steenson said Monday evening that she believed her daughter "snapped."

"Whatever happened she must have just had no control, she never would have hurt him if she was in her right mind, she never hurt anyone," said Steenson.

Farrauto, who was a single mother, according to family, was arraigned in New London Superior Court GA-10 about 12:20 p.m. Monday. She appeared before Judge Shari Murphy via video conference wearing a hospital gown and a mask. 

Bail commissioner Tim Gilman said in court that when he asked Farrauto where she lived, she responded by listing a series of numbers and said she lived in a police squad car. When he asked where she was employed, she told the commissioner she couldn't tell him.

Gilman said Farrauto has lived in New London for about eight years. According to social media profiles associated with Farrauto, she worked at Dunkin' Donuts.

He said she had "very serious mental health issues" and recommended a $1 million bond.

On Sunday, police responded to an area near Farrauto's home for a report of a woman damaging a vehicle with a bat. When police approached Farrauto, they said she told them to "take me away" because she had strangled her son, who was in their apartment.

The boy was found unconscious in her apartment and was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Judge Murphy appointed Attorney Aimee Mahon to present Farrauto.

Mahon said Farrauto has "underlying mental health issues that contributed to the incident."

Farrauto spoke twice during the arraignment, saying "yeah" in response to the judge's appointment of her attorney and acknowledging that she could hear the judge.

The judge ordered that Farrauto be placed under a suicide watch, mental health watch and medical watch. Judge Murphy also ordered an evaluation to determine Farrauto's competency to stand trial.

At least 50 people gathered to honor David's memory at the candlelight vigil on Monday evening, standing in the street and in a parking lot near 242 Nautilus Drive, the apartment complex where the boy was found dead, lighting dozens of candles that flickered in the dark. Steenson said her daughter had just moved into the apartment with David five months ago and that it was her first time living on her own with her son.

Neighbors, friends, family members and strangers made a memorial for David, decorating it with flowers, photographs, posters and balloons with the characters from Paw Patrol, David's favorite show. People left dozens of stuffed animals at the memorial, as did a golden retriever named Leo, who dropped a toy in the pile to remember the young boy who used to pet him, his owner said.

The vigil was organized by Jennifer Ostby, a longtime friend of Farrauto. Ostsby said she has known Farrauto, who she said was her best friend, for more than 15 years and had known David since he was born. She said she was shocked to hear what had happened and was heartbroken by the boy's death.

Ostby described David as mischievous and curious. She said he loved to play with her makeup and make funny videos.

"He was funny and outgoing and goofy, he had eyes and eyelashes that would melt anyone," she said. "He loved to color and tell people what to draw for him. He was such a wonderful kid."

Steenson said that she identified her grandson's body and that he looked "as beautiful as ever." She said her daughter was a wonderful mother who viewed herself as "a mama bear" who was fiercely protective of her son.

She said that in recent years her daughter had suffered "a lot of trauma," including a tumultuous relationship with the boy's father, also named David Jasmin.

April Lussier of Norwich said she had been friends with Farrauto for years and had known David his entire life, too. She said that she used to babysit David and that he and Farrauto lived with her and her family last summer while she was saving money to get her own place.

She said she never knew Farrauto to be violent or mentally ill. She said her friend did suffer from a drug addiction at one point but that as far as she knew, she had been clean from drugs since she found out she was pregnant with David.

In a statement released Monday night, Connecticut Department of Children and Families Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes said that the agency had involvement with Farrauto in 2017. The issues "centered around allegations of substance use and supports needed to care for a newborn," she said.

The department and community partners assisted the family and worked with "their extended networks of support," Dorantes said.  

According to the statement, Farrauto recently reached out to the department to ask for help.

"Recently, we were contacted by the mother who expressed concerns that an unknown party may have maltreated her son," said Dorantes.

The department reviewed the matter and "provided the mother with information on resources in the community," the statement said.

Steenson said she was planning to make funeral arrangements for her grandson. The boy's father attended the vigil Monday evening and shouted from a vehicle as he left, thanking people for coming.

A GoFundMe organized by Carlene Rose Briana Bushee and Nicholas Farrauto, who Otsby said was Farrauto's father, was started to raise money for funeral expenses. A total of $2,100 of the $20,000 goal had been raised by Monday night.

Farrauto is scheduled to appear in court again on March 22. The warrant in the case was ordered sealed and the case was being transferred to Part A, where major crimes are heard.

t.hartz@theday.com

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