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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Visiting nurse found dead in Willimantic halfway house was beloved mother of six

    A visiting nurse who was found dead in a Willimantic basement after an at-home visit with a registered sex offender has been identified.

    The body of Joyce Grayson, 63, was found in the basement of a halfway house on Saturday, hours after she reportedly went there for an 8 a.m. appointment with Michael Carlos Reese, a convicted sex offender who was on probation, according to court records and a statement from the Connecticut Hospital Association, who identified Grayson on Wednesday.

    Grayson was reported missing on Saturday after she missed other appointments and stopped answering her phone. The location services on her phone showed that she never left Reese’s house, according to an arrest report affidavit for Reese obtained by the Hartford Courant.

    The hospital association on Wednesday called Grayson’s death “a horrific act of violence.”

    Grayson was a married mother of six, according to her obituary. She grew up on a dairy farm in Sterling as one of 13 children and graduated from Killingly High School. She spend 26 years with the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

    “After retiring from DMHAS, she continued to serve as a visiting nurse for New England Home Care, now known as Elara Caring, for over 10 years, until the date of her untimely death,” her obituary said.

    According to her obituary, Grayson loved to cook and bake. She loved to spend time with her children, grandchildren and siblings and was also a foster parent for the Department of Children and Families for over 20 years.

    “Joyce was a beautiful soul, who dedicated her life to caring for others,” the obituary said. “She loved her job as a mental health nurse, and it was truly what she was put on this earth to do. She passed away doing what she loved. She leaves behind a large family, whom she raised with her large heart to be just like her.”

    On Saturday, Willimantic Police Chief Paul M. Hussey said Grayson’s death was “deeply troubling” and “one of the worst cases I have seen in 27 years in law enforcement.”

    The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Wednesday that the results of Grayson’s autopsy were still pending. Investigators have not yet said how she died.

    Connecticut State Police, who took over the investigation, said that no further information was available about Grayson’s death as the case was still under investigation.

    The hospital association said Wednesday that healthcare workers “are five times as likely to experience workplace violence as other workers nationwide” and called on the state to do more to protect healthcare workers and support the healthcare workforce, including those working in people’s homes.

    Reese has not yet been charged in connection with Grayson’s death but was arrested at the scene of the homicide on unrelated charges Saturday.

    Reese had been living at the halfway house at 106 Chapman St., which is part of the Re-Entry Assisted Community Housing (REACH) program, since Aug. 2. He moved there after completing a program for high-risk individuals convicted of sexual offenses at the January Center in Uncasville following his release from prison. He was on probation for a conviction of first-degree sexual assault and first-degree assault causing serious injury, along with another conviction for violating probation, according to the affidavit.

    He was recently released from prison in March and was supposed to receive case management and help transitioning back into society while at the REACH location in Willimantic.

    Police said that while at the house looking for Grayson, they spotted Reese leaving the back of the residence and heading toward a bike path. He had a knife, a pipe he used to smoke crack and a wooden stick in his possession, court records show.

    In a subsequent search, police also found debit and credit cards and keys to a Hyundai vehicle. The name on the credit and debit cards were redacted from court records, as was Grayson’s name. Police said Grayson drove a Hyundai.

    Grayson’s Hyundai was not at the REACH residence or home in Brooklyn, Connecticut, where loved ones checked for her. Police said it was found at a business near the Willimantic house, and a K-9 unit tracked her scent from the vehicle to the halfway house.

    Reese’s probation officer said he was being held in custody as a suspect in the homicide after Grayson’s belongings were reportedly found in his possession, according to the arrest affidavit.

    Reese was charged with larceny and possession of drug paraphernalia on Saturday.

    “Our hearts go out to the family of Joyce Grayson and we offer our deepest condolences to all who knew and loved her,” the hospital association said in a statement. “Our entire state, and the entire healthcare community, is mourning the loss of someone who dedicated her life to caring for others.”

    Calling hours will for Grayson be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Tillinghast Funeral Home at 433 Main St. in Danielson, according to her obituary. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Federated Church of Christ at 15 Hartford Road in Brooklyn. The burial will be private.

    In lieu of flowers, the family is asking people to donate to a GoFundMe at gofundme.com/f/joyce-elaine-grayson that will used to carry on Grayson’s legacy.

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