New Fairfield murder-suicide appears statistically rare
NEW FAIRFIELD — With the focus on a woman and a sharp weapon — the murder-suicide of a local couple is statistically unlike most domestic homicide cases in the state and country.
The majority of murder-suicides in the U.S. are perpetrated by men and involve a firearm, according to the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
Women were the perpetrators in 6 percent of murder-suicides, compared to 89 percent for men, according to a policy center study of the murder-suicides in the country in the first half of 2017.
“It is rare that we see the female rise up and kill the male, that’s for sure,” said Joe Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who investigated numerous murder-suicides as a detective sergeant for the New York Police Department.
But New Fairfield resident Michael Ciorra died Monday from a blunt injury to the head and stab wounds to the torso, while his wife Jennifer Ciorra died from acute carbon monoxide intoxication, the medical examiner’s office said. The office ruled her death a suicide.
State police have held back information about what led to the couple’s death and have not released details on the weapon or weapons used. Police characterized the deaths as a “murder-suicide.”
The Violence Policy Center study found 65 percent of murder-suicides in the United States involved an intimate partner, and women were the victims in 96 percent of those cases.
Among the incidents where women were killed by intimate partners, 94 percent involved a gun.
Using a knife often suggests a significant other killed the victim in “crime of passion” because it is an “up close and personal weapon,” Giacalone said.
“Who else can get you that angry?” he said. “Strangers don’t get you that angry.”
Sometimes, women who have been the victims of domestic violence become violent toward their perpetrators to protect themselves, said Karen Jarmoc, president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“These are really complicated circumstances and relationships,” she said. “It’s important to take a deep breath and consider there could be multiple factors that contribute to this domestic violence homicide-suicide.”
In Connecticut, there are an average of 14 domestic violence homicides a year. Of those, 30 percent are murder-suicide, according to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s latest report.
A gun was used in 91 percent of the murder-suicides in the country in the first half of 2017, according to Violence Policy Center’s study.
But in the Danbury area, it is less common for homicides in general to involve firearms, State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky said. He said he saw more homicides with guns when he prosecuted in Bridgeport, than in Danbury.
But in New Milford, a North Carolina man last April shot and killed his daughter, who he had a child with, before killing himself, police said.
Still, there are fewer gun cases in the Danbury area, compared to other parts of the state, Sedenksy said.
“We don’t have a lot of people getting caught with illegal firearms the way other parts of the state do,” he said.
In intimate partner homicides in the state, a gun was used 40 percent of the time, according to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s study of these crimes between 2000 to 2017.
A knife or another sharp object was used 33 percent of the time, while blunt force or a blunt object was used 8 percent of the time, according to the study.
“Guns aren’t used as often as they used to be, even though they still are the majority of circumstances,” Jarmoc said.
Crimes of passion are also rare, at least for homicides of intimate partners or children.
In a study of 150 of these crimes, perpetrators showed signs of premeditation 83 percent of the time, according to a study referenced by Safer Families, Safer Communities, a domestic violence prevention organization.