Bill Stewart, a former Branford police officer and volunteer fireman who was brutally beaten by a friend’s son and has spent 20 months recuperating in various facilities, said thank you yesterday to the Branford paramedics who saved his life.
“I was not complete until I said thank you,” he said as he shook hands with the men.
At one time Stewart and former Branford Police Chief John DeCarlo were partners. Many firefighters knew Stewart well and they were overcome when they saw him.
Stewart told his attorney Joseph Packtor he wanted to personally thank “the first responders” who rushed to a house on Patrick Lane on March 12, 2011, to help him after Neil Amendola, then 36, struck him repeatedly in his head and body from behind with a baseball bat.
Stewart, now 58, arrived to visit the paramedics at Branford fire headquarters yesterday afternoon. He posed for the photo above with (left to right) firefighters Jim Carson and Paul Cipriani, Bill Stewart, Deputy Chief Ron Mullen and firefighters Dan Ghiroli and John Cudgma. Missing from the photo is firefighter Randy Chittenden who also treated Stewart at the incident scene. Also missing is the doctor who provided special emergency services en route to the hospital.
Amendola, who had been placed in a mental hospital shortly after the assault, pleaded guilty last month in Superior Court to brutally attacking Stewart who arrived at the Amendola house on March 12, 2011, a Saturday morning. After a long stay in the hospital, Amendola was deemed competent to understand the charges against him and to aid in his defense. In April, 2011 he was deemed incompetent to stand trial and his lawyer said he could not communicate with his client.
Packtor told the Eagle “It is an absolute miracle that Stewart is here.”
An old friend of the Amendola family, Stewart reportedly answered a call from Amendola’s mother to help close a garage door which Amendola had smashed when he exited the garage without opening it the night before. Mother and son lived at 6 Patrick Lane.
Stewart’s wife, Leslie and Amendola’s mother, Carol, were longtime friends and teachers at the John B. Sliney School and it is believed that Carol called Leslie and Leslie asked her husband to go to the Amendola home.
A civil lawsuit filed by the Stewarts in 2011 for negligence and other claims against both Carol and Neil Amendola provides new insight into Amendola’s state of mind on the morning of the attack.
It says that Carol Amendola failed to call the proper authorities the night before the attack “to report a rage episode her son Neil experienced” that led to his driving his car out of the garage before he opened it. The complaint generally outlines the destructive behavior Neil Amendola engaged in which it says his mother was aware of and failed to act upon.
It also says Carol Amendola failed to respond in “an appropriate and timely manner once the assault began so as to prevent or lessen the injuries” Stewart suffered.
Carol Amendola’s attorney, Michael P. Kamp, says in a motion for summary judgment that at the time of the assault Neil Amendola was an adult who was living with his mother “who has no responsibility or (legal) control over his actions or behavior.”
“He is an adult,” he said, “not a minor,” he told the Eagle. Kamp, of the law firm of Loughlin Fitzgerald in Wallingford, does not represent Neil Amendola, he said. Packtor will respond to this motion, a major one in the case and then there will be oral arguments on the motion sometime in February. Summary judgment is usually asked for when there are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Stewart returned for the first time to his Branford home last week after having spent months at Yale-New Haven hospital and in rehab at Madison House, a rehab center in Madison, and before that at Gaylord Healthcare, a long-term acute and chronic care hospital.
Stewart chatted with the paramedics who, along with a physician on call, moved swiftly to save his life. At the outset he was not expected to live. One of the responders was Deputy Chief Ron Mullen, an old friend. “To come in and see him come in the door and see him talking and expressing his opinions it surprised me,” Mullen told News 8. “I never thought this day would be here.”
He was clearly moved as he visited his old friends. He even had a quip, News 8 reported, for the paramedic who drove the ambulance on that fateful day in 2011.
“I understand there may be a ticket waiting for you,” Stewart said laughing.
The Criminal Case
Amendola, a small man who seemed delirious after his arrest, was soon found not competent to stand trial in New Haven Superior Court. He underwent extensive psychiatric evaluations at the Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middleton and after a long period of time was deemed to be competent, that is, he understood the charges against him and was able to assist his attorney, Michael Dolan, in his defense.
Dolan told the Eagle a plea agreement was arrived at last month between Kevin Doyle, the assistant state’s attorney, himself and Amendola whereby Amendola agreed to plead guilty to assault in the first degree, a class B felony in exchange for 12 years in prison. He faced up to twenty years. He has been held in $500,000 bond since his arrest.
Dolan said the 12 year term was not yet set in stone. “We have a right to argue for less,” he said at Amendola’s sentencing hearing which is scheduled to take place on Feb. 26 in New Haven Superior Court.
Amendola has also been charged with interfering with an officer and resisting arrest after a subsequent altercation in the Branford police lock-up where he was taken after he was charged with beating Stewart. Click here to read that story.
The Civil Case
Seated in the audience during the Amendola plea session last month was Packtor of the law firm of Jacobs &Dow LLC.
Packtor represents the Stewarts in the civil law suit the couple filed against Carol and Neil Amendola in New Haven Superior Court in September, 2011.
The nine-page complaint also outlines the destructive behavior Neil Amendola engaged in prior to the assault, behavior the complaint says his mother failed to report. It also says Mrs. Amendola failed to warn Bill Stewart of the “serious risk of harm her son Neil posed to a person entering” her house on that morning.
At the time of the assault, the complaint says Carol Amendola knew or should have known that Neil was “mixing illegal drugs with prescription psychiatric medications and was prone to uncontrolled, unpredictable and sometimes violent outbursts, all of which posed a serious risk of physical harm to persons entering” their house.
In a count against Neil Amendola, the complaint says he did not properly use prescription psychiatric medications, “when he knew or should have known that his failure to do so impaired his behavior and posed an unreasonable risk of physical harm to others.” The complaint says Neil Amendola is negligent in failing to seek psychiatric care, even though he knew he was prone to violent outbursts. Nor did he follow the advice of mental health providers knowing his actions posed ” a serious risk of physical harm to others.”
Stewart’s injuries, which the lawsuit says could have and should have been avoided, included multiple traumatic brain injuries, stroke, paralysis , cognitive and motor function impairment and other injuries, “some or all of which are permanent in nature.” Stewart has undergone multiple surgeries and has lost his ability to work.
The second count in the civil lawsuit, both against Carol and Neil Amendola, was brought by Leslie Stewart for damages she has suffered in connection to the loss of consortium, i.e. the deprivation of a family relationship as a result of the assault.
The lawsuit asserts negligence and carelessness on the part of Carol and Neil Amendola and seeks unspecified damages beyond the minimum $15,000 required by law.
Last month as Amendola was preparing to enter his guilty plea and the court had ascertained he was now competent, Packtor made a motion, which was granted by the court, to allow him to take Amendola’s deposition in prison.