Searching for clues in ‘worst’ Fairfield case of family violence
A violent domestic confrontation, described by a local expert as “the worst” in Fairfield’s recent history, shattered a Mountain Laurel Road family early Tuesday when the father was fatally shot by a police officer after officials said he brutally attacked and seriously injured his wife and three children.
Widespread shock reverberated in the aftermath of the tragic puzzle that unfolded at the white ranch house at 22 Mountain Laurel Road shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday, which left 51-year-old Christopher Andrews dead in his driveway, shot and killed after he refused Officer Sean Fenton’s order to drop the weapon he was brandishing — a knife, according to a police source.
Fenton, a 26-year police veteran, was the first officer to arrive at the scene in response to a 9-1-1 call made by the Andrews’ 13-year-old daughter. He encountered a chaotic scene with not only Christopher Andrews outside the house, but also Andrews’ 15-year-old son who had a baseball bat that he apparently wrestled away from his father as he was poised to strike him in his bed.
Inside, the first emergency responders found a grisly scene, with Andrews’ 50-year-old wife, Kathleen, his daughter and 12-year-old son all suffering serious wounds inflicted by stabbing and blunt force, police said.
The attacks stunned people who knew the Andrews family as well as the broader community, but few clues were available to shed light on what may have set off the tragic chain of events.
Investigation was turned over to State Police, because of the Fairfield officer’s involvement in the fatal shooting. And other than confirming a few initial details of the incident, as of Thursday they made no statement on how the incident unfolded. Fairfield police, relegated to a secondary role in the probe, could provide no information that might help answer troubling questions.
The elements of what may have caused the tragedy were elusive.
Christopher Andrews, a lawyer with a New York firm, was said to be supportive of his sons’ athletic pursuits.
Police said they had no record of prior problems of any kind reported at the Mountain Laurel Road house, and in many social-medias comments, people who said they knew the family said they appeared to happy and well-adjusted.
Fenton, the 48-year-old patrol officer whose role is also part of the investigation, has been honored several times over the course of his career with Fairfield police, which dates to 1990.
In the wake of the shooting, the officer has been placed on administrative leave, pending outcome of the investigation by State Police detectives. Police Chief Gary MacNamara, however, said Fenton’s “quick actions” are credited with preventing “further serious injuries to family members.”
The number of shots fired by Fenton has not been revealed by investigators.
In accordance with department protocol, Fenton has been offered psychological support and counseling. Other emergency personnel on the scene also have been offered similar support, officials said.
Fenton “has already been put in touch with a psychiatrist,” said Deputy Chief Chris Lyddy. “They put together a plan, and as long as the office adheres to the plan, he can return to duty. He does have the option of taking time off, and we would be supportive of Sean if he feels more time is needed. He has indicated he is anxious to come back to work, however."
Fenton was the recipient of a “Police Chief's Letter of Recognition” the town’s 2012 public-safety awards ceremony; 35 letters of commendation over the course of his career, and in 2008 had been given a citation for Meritorious Service from State Police as part of a group of state and local officers who helped in the search and capture of an armed man fleeing through the area from Maine.
In addition to the investigation led by State Police for the State’s Attorney’s Office in Stamford, the state Department of Children and Families in involved in the probe. And the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, was to conduct an autopsy, although as of Wednesday reported that its findings are pending further investigation.
Kathleen Andrews’ condition, initially reported as critical, has stabilized at Bridgeport Hospital, but the younger Andrews son is under critical care at Yale-new Haven Hospital. His 15-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister were both released Wednesday after being treated for their injuries at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. They are staying with relatives.
Police said the four family members all suffered stab wounds and traumatic blunt-force injuries of varying degrees of severity.
While State Police try to learn what motives may have triggered the brutal incident, few details about the attack were publicly known.
Fairfield police Lt. James Perez said Wednesday that, despite some news accounts, no one saw the youngest child or the mother being "clubbed" by a bat while they were still bed early Tuesday. He said initial reports from officers at the scene indicate that the oldest so awakened just as his father tried to strike him with a bat.
The 15-year-old wrestled the bat away from his father and ran outside, he said.
"The circumstances surrounding the violence inside the house are still being determined,” added MacNamara. “We are still trying to determine the sequence of the events that occurred prior to our arrival.”
During the early stages of the investigation, police said it still is not clear who inflicted most of the injuries during the disturbance, and could not definitively say whether the father was completely responsible.
Vigil for victims of ‘worst’ case of domestic violence
As news of the violent incident spread through the community, friends and neighbors were stunned.
Town officials, reacting to the grief, plan a vigil Sunday evening for the community to come together and to spotlight the problem of domestic violence.
The vigil will take place at 6 p.m. on Town Hall Green, with remarks by First Selectman Michael Tetreau, MacNamara and Debra Greenwood, president/CEO of the Center for Family Justice, an agency that deals with domestic-violence issues, and has offices in Fairfield and Bridgeport.
"We’re basically providing an opportunity for the members of our community to come together and reflect and share their feelings,” Tetreau said. “The idea is to keep it simple and respectful and give the community a chance to reflect and show our concern and support for the victims of this tragedy."
Greenwood, in a statement, called the Mountain Laurel case, “the single worst incident of domestic violence we have been called on to respond to in my nine-year tenure leading this organization.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the survivors and the many residents of Fairfield who call them friends,” Greenwood said. “We know they are part of a confused and heartbroken community today. And we are here to help.
“Unfortunately and tragically, this situation illustrates in a heartbreaking way that domestic violence can and does impact any community and any family,” she added. “Last year, we served more than 256 victims of domestic violence in Fairfield.”
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been posted for donations to support the Andrews family: http://bit.ly/1SzsHRs.
At a service at St. Pius X Catholic Church, which remained open Tuesday evening for a rosary service for the Andrews family, sentiments from those who knew the family or those simply shaken by the violent incident, were similar.
“They were really good friends with a whole group of other neighbors; they spent a lot of time together. It was just a really nice family, really nice guy and it’s all very confusing,” said Shari Nerreau, as she fought back tears before entering the service.
“We tried to process it and make sense of it ... I’m sure that information will come out, and I think right now we’re just praying for the family, whose members are still, you know, they’re still not in great shape,” she said.
“My husband woke up to the gunshots,” said Nerreau, who lives near the Andrews home.
Nicholas Crescione, who plays basketball alongside the eldest Andrews child at Fairfield Warde High School, said he also learned of the shooting from watching the news on television. “It’s crazy,” he said.
The group texts started at 7:30 in the morning with the ‘Are you OK,’ and they just didn’t stop,” said Susan Mudd, who also said a rosary for the Andrews family Tuesday night.
Later in the morning, Mudd said, her daughter sent her a link to a news article.
“I was like, oh my God, this doesn’t happen in Fairfield, then we realized that we know the family,” Mudd said. “I’m still shocked. It’s a nice family.”
Superintendent of Schools David Title said that mental-health resources were available Tuesday to students and staff for counseling support at the schools attended by children in the family.
Tenants’ tragedy surprises owners
The home at 22 Mountain Laurel Road is owned by Harun and Jacinta Keskinkaya, according to the town’s online land-records database.
Harun Keskinkaya is the CEO of DJH Leather Corp. of New York City, and owner Delfino Imports. A woman identifying herself as the Keskinkayas’ daughter answered the phone at Delfino in New York, and said her family does not live in the Mountain Laurel home, and for many years rented the house to the Andrews family involved.
While she said she did not know the tenants’ names, she had met them in passing and was shocked to hear about the assault. "From my parents, I only heard good things about the family," she said. "They were always so kind to us."
Harun Keskinkaya was traveling to trade shows in Italy and was not expected back until later in the week.
Staff writers Alex Gecan and Amanda Cuda contributed to this report.