Brookfield men plead not guilty in Candlewood Lake assault
NEW FAIRFIELD — Two Brookfield residents have pleaded not guilty to an assault on Sand Island two months ago that left a man with fractures, lacerations and permanent facial disfigurement.
Richard “Richie” Nigro, 41, and Neil Yandow, 29, have been charged with first-degree assault, first-degree strangulation and interfering with an officer/resisting arrest stemming from an incident that occurred during the early morning hours of July 14.
A 25-year-old victim told state police he had been “strangled” and punched in the face by Nigro and Yandow on the less than quarter-acre island outside Echo Bay after a night of drinking at Down the Hatch.
It all began when the victim, Nigro, Yandow and three other people took a boat from the Brookfield bar and restaurant to the Candlewood Lake island around 2:30 a.m., according to arrest warrant affidavits.
Upon arrival, Yandow, Nigro and the woman — identified by police as Nigro’s wife and Yandow’s sister — jumped into the water, according to affidavits, and the owner of the boat made a comment about Nigro's wife’s bathing suit “coming off.”
Nigro and Yandow “did not take that comment lightly,” according to arrest affidavits, and the two men thought the victim was the one who said it.
The victim told police Nigro and Yandow climbed onto the boat and tackled him off the front end of the vessel into about a foot of water.
While on his back in the water, the victim said, one of the two men pinned him down by his neck with his head underwater, while the other punched his face and head “seven or eight times,” according to the affidavits.
The fight was broken up by one or two of the other men on the island, police said, and everyone was dropped off back on shore — the victim at the Candlewood East Marina and Nigro, Yandow and the others at Down the Hatch.
The victim told police he walked home and went to sleep around 4:30 a.m. He said he decided to go the hospital around 8 p.m. after seeing the severity of his injuries, and it was there that he called police.
Police obtained surveillance footage from the Candlewood East Marina that showed the victim walking up from the lake frontage and docks. He appeared “disheveled” and “injured,” and had blood on his face.
The victim sustained fractures and a deep laceration to his temple, broken nose, chipped tooth and bruising to his face, arm and legs, police said, and his nose and skull are permanently disfigured.
Police spoke with the owner and operator of the boat, who admitted to making a comment that “started an assault of (the victim),” but refused to name the individuals who assaulted the victim, according to police.
Police received a call from a man who agreed to provide information about the incident.
He told police he saw Nigro and Yandow “punching and strangling” the victim in the water and said they chased after the victim when he tried to get away.
Nigro’s wife told police she was on the island and there was “some type of argument,” but declined to say more, police said.
Nigro and Yandow both denied even being on the island, according to the affidavits.
Nigro and Yandow were both arrested July 29 by Environmental Conservation Police. Both have assault convictions on their records, police said.
Yandow is being held at the Bridgeport Correctional Institution on first-degree assault, first-degree strangulation and interfering with an officer/resisting arrest charges.
Nigro, who owns a tattoo shop in Danbury, was released on $150,000 professional surety bond. He hired criminal defense attorney Richard D. Arconti to represent him.
Yandow — whose bond was also $150,000 — is being represented by a public defender.
He has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Wednesday at state Superior Court in Danbury, while Nigro has one scheduled for Oct. 3.