Meriden woman released after being sentenced to 3 years in prison in connection with boyfriend’s death

Meriden woman released after being sentenced to 3 years in prison in connection with boyfriend’s death


Melissa Ziemba. (Courtesy of Meriden police)

A city woman sentenced to serve three years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to a charge in connection to the death of her 49-year-old boyfriend in 2012 was released the same day on time served. She had been held on bond since her arrest in 2012.

Melissa Ziemba, 46, pleaded guilty to intentional cruelty to persons in New Haven Superior Court and was immediately sentenced, according to court documents. She was initially charged with murder and criminal use of a weapon and has been held on bond since her arrest in 2012. A jury trial was scheduled to begin today. A Department of Corrections spokesman confirmed Ziemba was released from custody on Tuesday.

During the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2012, police responded to a report that her boyfriend, Richard West, had shot himself in an apartment at 76 Olive St.

Ziemba told the officers that before the shooting she and West were arguing when he punched her in the face and grabbed her shirt. Officers noticed dried blood on her lower lip and cuts on her neck, according to Ziemba’s arrest warrant. Ziemba said West was upset because she had a friend in the apartment earlier in the evening.

Ziemba, who had been drinking alcohol earlier, went to bed after the argument and West came in a short time later, saying he was tired and “didn’t want to deal with it anymore” before she heard a single gunshot, the warrant said.

In recounting the events, Ziemba gave police versions that differed slightly. In one, she frantically began looking for her phone, went upstairs to ask neighbors to use their phone but got no answer and then returned to look for her phone. In another, she told police she initially did not think West had shot himself so she left the room but became worried when she went to check on him a short time later, the warrant said.

She eventually reached her father’s girlfriend by phone and the woman told her to call the police.

“I don’t want to go to jail. Rick shot himself,” Ziemba responded, according to the warrant.

Ziemba’s father arrived at the apartment about 45 minutes after the shooting and called 911.

When police asked Ziemba why she didn’t call 911, she told them “I don’t call the police” or 911, the warrant said. At one point “she said her fingers will never touch those numbers.”

The gun used in the shooting was found stuck between a cardboard box and a pile of clothes and it appeared “that someone had purposely shoved the gun between the box and clothing,” the warrant said. The slide of the handgun was slightly to the rear and the empty cartridge had not ejected.

The medical examiner said West died of a gunshot wound to the chest and had gunpowder residue on his thumb, the warrant said. It appears that his hand was on the muzzle of the gun when it went off, which prevented the cartridge from discharging. Due to the relationship between the gun and West’s chest and hand, the medical examiner concluded that the gun had to have been fired by another person, the warrant said. Ziemba told police she and West were the only ones in the apartment at the time of the shooting. 203-317-2225 Twitter: @LaurenSievertRJ

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