About two hundred residents from Manchester’s North End came together for a community meeting at the Webster Street Fire Station last night, just a day after the shocking murder of sixty two year old Denise Robert.  Robert was out for her ritual Sunday night walk when she was shot and killed around nine o’clock at the corner of Carpenter and Ray streets.  A Bedford resident, Robert grew up on nearby Sagamore Street and was familiar with the area, which she’d walked for several years.

Police Chief Nick Willard shared what little they knew of the murder with residents and the Attorney General’s Office shared a time line of Robert’s whereabouts prior to her walk.  While Willard didn’t rule out the possibility of the murder being a random act of violence, he said it would be the only time in his twenty six year career that an act such as that would have occurred.  Of the area, Willard said it’s not the place you’d expect a random shooting, though the department is not ruling it out.

Willard:  Not thinking the shooting was random

Willard: Not thinking the shooting was random

Willard was both blunt and sympathetic in his comments.  The only lead they have comes from someone who saw a pickup truck speeding down Ray Street toward Carpenter around the time the shot was heard around ten minutes to nine.  Several residents said they thought it was a firecracker.  Without stopping, the pickup took a wide right hand turn onto Carpenter Street and another right onto Union Street.  It was last seen on Union in the vicinity of Webster Street.  As residents in the area were putting their trash and recycling out for Monday’s scheduled collection, officials are hopeful someone saw or heard something that will help with the investigation.

They had no description of the pickup truck as the area in question is poorly lit, though they believe it may have been a dark color.  They also believe the driver was a white male in his twenties to thirties with short, cropped hair.  Police received a 9 1 1 call reporting a person in the road at around 9.  When they arrived, they found Robert dead at the scene.

Both Willard and Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin urged area residents to come forward with any and all information, no matter how trivial or unrelated they thought it may be.  They are especially asking those with video surveillance systems to check their footage before, during and after the time of the crime in the event their cameras captured an image of the pickup or perpetrator.  Strelzin told the gathered crowd his office often receives critical information a month or more into the investigation from people who said they thought the police already had the information or they didn’t think it was relevant.  Often times, they don’t have it and it is relevant, he said.  Willard pledged that investigators would follow up on any and all leads and said he has committed every detective to solving this crime and extra patrols, both marked and under cover to the neighborhood to restore a sense of safety.

Gatsas:  Whatever it takes

Gatsas: Whatever it takes

In an statement issued yesterday afternoon, Mayor Ted Gatsas said quote “Violence like this will not be tolerated in Manchester…there will be justice for this senseless crime and any and all resources that Chief Willard needs will be provided to him…We will not rest until there are answers.  We will not rest until this community feels safe again.”

Robert was the oldest of twelve children, whose siblings included former Ward Two Alderman and School Committeewoman Francoise Elise and former Ward Eleven Alderman Tom Robert.  She was someone I knew and considered a good person.  We can only hope that something good comes out of this senseless tragedy.

We’ve uploaded the Attorney General’s press release and linked to the mayor’s statement from this news read at Girard at Large dot com.  Ward One Alderman Joyce Craig hosted last night’s meeting.  If you even think you might have some information, you are urged to call the Manchester Police Department at 6 6 8 8 7 1 12 or Manchester Crime Line at 6 2 4 40 40

News from our own backyard continues after this.

Manchester Teachers:  Taking protests into the classroom

Manchester Teachers: Taking protests into the classroom

Well, it took a while, but Manchester’s teachers union confirmed that it’s directing teachers not to do anything that’s not specifically in their contract as teachers head back to school today.  The leadership of the Manchester Education Association has admitted it has asked teachers not to bring in any supplies, pencils or pencil sharpeners, not to decorate their rooms, not to stay late unless they have to, not to volunteer and not to do anything that isn’t specifically required by their contract.  M E A President Sue Ellen Hannan said the union’s goal wasn’t to hurt students, but to provide clear evidence of what teachers do to go above and beyond for them.  Apparently, the union believes there will be supply shortages that underscore the thousands of dollars in supplies teachers bring to their classrooms every year.   Hannan said quote

“Many of our teachers are in distress about being asked not to do what they have always done. They understand that without action there is no change. Without conflict, there is no change.”  End quote.

After meeting with building principals today, teachers will go to their classrooms to set up for tomorrow’s opening day of school.

Craig:  Just kidding?

Craig: Just kidding?

From what we can see, Mayor Ted Gatsas has called the debate bluff of rival Joyce Craig.  On Friday, Craig posted a Tweet saying she’d always been happy to debate, but that all candidates needed to be present, including the mayor.  “Will he debate? Ball is in his court,” she Tweeted.  Gatsas replied, tweeting he’d be happy to give up his regular appearance to debate the issues on this show on September ninth, just days before the primary.

Girard:  Craig's scapegoat?

Girard: Craig’s scapegoat?

Craig, who has spurned her multiple pledges to be a guest on and ignored several media inquiries from this show, tweeted back quote “how about an independent moderator? People of Manchester expect unbiased debates w/all 5 candidates.”  Shortly thereafter, her campaign manager tweeted an “in case you missed it” message with a link to my two thousand eleven endorsement of Gatsas in his landslide reelection bid against Ward Four school board member Christopher Herbert.

I’m not sure what a four year old endorsement from a different race proves about my ability to impartially moderate a debate in a race where I know the people and issues well, but I’m thinking it proves that, once again, Joyce Craig may be looking for a way out of a corner she painted herself into.

As with everything in this morning’s news read, we will, of course, discuss.

That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!