MERIDEN — Police and city officials Tuesday remembered David Paul, an infant found frozen to death after being abandoned in a South Meriden parking lot 33 years ago. The annual ceremony was the first since police were able to identify and speak with the mother of the infant last year thanks to advanced DNA technology.
She has not been charged due to the statute of limitations for manslaughter expiring, police have said.
Every year members of the Meriden Police Department hold the remembrance ceremony at David Paul’s grave in Walnut Grove Cemetery on Old Colony Road. About two dozen people attended this year. Members of the police honor guard were present and a wreath was placed on the grave. Retired police chief Robert Kosienski, who was chief in 1988, spoke about the department’s commitment to David Paul.
“We made a promise, a commitment, that we would never forget him,” Kosienski said Tuesday. “...David Paul gave us a part of life that we never thought we’d have. An individual that we gave a memory to year and year after...David Paul touched so many lives and still does to this very day...”
Police found the body of the days-old infant in the parking lot of AGC Inc., a machine shop on Evansville Avenue, on Jan. 2, 1988. The baby wasn’t identified and was unofficially adopted by the police department and named David Paul. Shortly after the 32nd remembrance ceremony last year, police announced they had identified the mother of the infant as Karen Kuzmak-Roche.
"At this point in time we believe that she will not be charged. We're looking at a manslaughter, which has a statute of limitations of 20 years," Jeffrey Cossette, former police chief, said at the time.
He said the New Haven state's attorney's office would have the final say on whether charges would be pursued, however. When Detective Lt. Steve Burstein and Detective Sgt. Shane Phillips met with Kuzmak-Roche on Jan. 2, 2019 she confessed to abandoning her infant son. Police confirmed the relationship through a DNA test from the state laboratory.
Kuzmak-Roche told police she felt a lot of remorse for what happened. She told police she was "in a very bad state of mind," in a relationship and that she delivered the baby herself at home. Kuzmak-Roche told police she never sought medical care for herself following the delivery. She said she called the South Meriden Volunteer Fire Department on Dec. 28, 1987 to report there was "something" they needed to find in the AGC parking lot. Cossette confirmed the call did take place and crews responded to the area. There were two parking lots at the time and the baby was in a wooded area of the property that was not visible from the street, he said.
Keith McCurdy, a detective sergeant in 1988, was at the ceremony on Tuesday. He said the department made a commitment when the child was found, and noted the community support at the time of his death. McCurdy said the funeral services, casket and burial plot were all donated.
“I was in charge of the youth division at the time and we were investigating a lot of cases of abuse and neglect,” McCurdy said Tuesday. “David Paul came to symbolize all kids that needed protecting and reminded us we needed to be diligent in the protection of our youth.”
McCurdy said multiple generations of officers have “picked up the torch” and continued working on the case to its conclusion.
Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogical consultant and founder of Identifinders International, worked with police on the investigation. Fitzpatrick, who is also co-executive director of the DNA Doe Project, said the Doe Project had been working on the DNA sequencing in the case, which has since been referred to Indentifinders.
"So this is a landmark case," Fitzpatrick said last year. "This is one of the original, one of two original, cold cases that were approached using this new way of doing things, a new approach to forensic identification."
After extensive research, the DNA sequencing led investigators to relatives of David Paul and they were able to narrow the search further. Fitzpatrick said they worked for a long time on putting the genealogy together. Meriden police put their resources behind the research to reach this conclusion, she said.
Safe Haven Law
Kosienski spoke Tuesday about testifying at the state Capitol to get the Safe Haven law passed. The law, which went into effect in 2000, allows a parent to voluntarily give up custody of an infant 30 days or younger to the nursing staff of an emergency room without being subject to arrest for abandonment.
The act does not protect the parent from being arrested and criminally prosecuted if abuse or neglect has occurred. Under the statute, the parent can decline to provide identifying information.
More than 30 infants have been saved from abandonment since the law went into effect, according to the state Department of Children and Families. Kuzmak-Roche told detectives that if the Safe Haven law had existed at the time, she would have taken advantage of it, Cossette said last year.