Murder Victim's Family in Limbo Due to State Police Records Backlog

The family of a Waterbury murder victim says a nearly two-year backlog in processing Connecticut State Police Reports and Records is causing unacceptable delays in getting answers in the case.

Two families were destroyed when an off-duty police officer and war veteran shot and killed a Waterbury man, then himself in July 2016.

Loved ones of the victim blame a state police backlog for failing to provide a report that could give both families some answers.

Family members described the late James Thomas Stuart III as a doting dad, friend to all, and loving brother.

"He called his son 'Bubba,' bringing him to his first Mets game and meeting Mr. Met," Tommy Stuart’s brother Scott Stuart told NBC Connecticut.

"His little princess, he loved her more than anything," Stuart’s sister Monique Stuart told NBC Connecticut.

The siblings told NBC Connecticut they have fond memories of their brother.

"He was a big part of my life. Fatherly figure, my best friend. Part of who I am today is because of him," Scott said.

The family is still waiting for answers about exactly what happened to Tommy.

"But we feel as a family we’ve been victimized twice. Because my brother was taken from us and, no one will give us any answers," Monique Stuart stated.

Their nightmare started July 20, 2016.

"It was my birthday,” Monique explained.

Police were called to Marion Avenue in Waterbury. Authorities say an off-duty Waterbury police officer, Hallock Yocher, fatally shot Tommy Stuart in the head and chest before shooting and killing himself.

"I started calling his phone, and I realized he hadn’t texted me, and Tommy is really big on birthdays," Monique said.

Sixteen months later, the family says their hearts are still shattered. They still have unanswered questions and the holidays without Tommy aren’t getting any easier.

"He’d be like 'it’s Turkey Day everybody! It’s Santa Claus’ birthday," Scott told NBC Connecticut.

"We’re never going to get our brother back, but we’d like to be able to explain to his children what happened," Monique added.

The Stuarts sat down with the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters after meeting with state police last week.

"There are always families they want to help, and unfortunately they can’t because of the budget cuts. There are only four people working in that office that processes the reports," Stuart said.

The Stuarts tell NBC Connecticut they want the state police report they already paid $16 for by check.

"We’re just being told we can’t get the report, we can’t get the report," Monique said.

"It’s a civil matter so you as a family don’t have rights to this information until it’s processed which is a 22-month backlog because of budgetary cuts," Scott stated.

"That if we really want to even try and speed up the process we need to get a lawyer and or start doing FOIA requests, Freedom of Information requests," Monique added.

A state police spokesman confirmed to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that there is 22 month backlog.

"The Agency’s report was completed in July. It is going to be processed through Reports and Records consistent with our ability to process requests. This report is also subject to redactions which will need to be made prior to it being released or viewed. We receive numerous requests throughout the year and all appropriate efforts utilizing technology and staffing to alleviate delays in the processing of requests are being undertaken," said Connecticut State Police Sgt. Eric Haglund.

"But the reality is there are victims’ families across the state right now being delayed answers and justice due to budgetary cuts," Monique said. "I offered to write a check right there. I feel poor choices by the leadership in this state that these are where you’re making cuts and you’re letting our suffering go up exponentially."

The Stuarts say they were initially told the backlog was around nine months. Then it got longer.

Emails from Cynthia Powell with Reports and Records confirm that the family was told the backlog was just under a year.

On November 1 Powell wrote to Monique Stuart, "to date this report has not been processed in reports and records as there is a backlog of incoming report processing of approximately 11 months…"

"We don’t want money. We just want to know what took place, who was involved," Scott reiterated.

NBC Connecticut requested the State Police report as well. The only one we’ve been given so far, through a Freedom of Information request, is from Naugatuck Police the morning of the incident on July 20, 2016.

They arrived at a neighbor’s home near the Yocher home a few minutes before 5 am.

Yocher, it states, had terminal cancer - was intoxicated – and in possession of guns.

The report says that when a Naugatuck officer approached Yocher’s wife, “she stated she did not want to talk to me or tell me what had happened… that her husband, Hallock Yocher, was a police officer and his department was coming to take care of the situation.” She also said, according to the report, that the couple had a fight over the friends she hangs out with including an ex-boyfriend.

Monique Stuart says that’s her brother Tommy.

"We found out today he used the Sig Sauer to kill Tommy and he used his service weapon to kill himself," Monique said. "We also got it confirmed, there was somebody, a third party in their home on July 19," she added. It’s unclear who that person was.

Monique Stuart has a clear message for state officials.

"I understand that Connecticut has a lot of financial difficulties, but perhaps Governor Malloy can review where he’s making his budget cuts," Monique said.

A spokesman for Governor Malloy’s office referred comment back to the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Reports and Records.

NBC Connecticut reached out to Yocher’s wife, but never heard back.

The Stuart family said that on November 9, a state police lieutenant told Monique Stuart that because of Yocher’s suicide there will be no criminal prosecution. But one day earlier, Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Len Boyle notified Monique Stuart that they’ll be reviewing the investigative file into her brother’s death to determine if further criminal investigation is warranted.

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