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She was all he had
|Published by The Herald
|'She was all he had': Man shot 2, killed himself in grief over wife, in-law says
By RICK GUINNESS, Herald staff07/28/2007
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SOUTHINGTON - A Vermont man whose wife died of an overdose of painkillers in March shot two people and then himself Thursday night at the Travelers Inn on Queen Street.
Joseph Mroczek, 43, whose last permanent address was 7 Allison Lane, Vernon, Vt., was found lying in his own blood next to a 9 mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol he used to shoot a guest and the motel owner at around 8:30 p.m.
The owner of the motel, Navin Aluria, 42, of Southington, was being treated at an area hospital and was expected to make a full recovery, family members said.
The guest, Carlos Roque, 31, of Yonkers, N.Y., was reported to have also survived, and was in guarded condition Friday evening at Hartford Hospital after surgery.
Police had a fairly clear picture of what happened, said Southington Police Sgt. Lowell DePalma, but were baffled as to motive.
Mroczek checked in at around 7:30 p.m., went to his room and came back downstairs, asking to change rooms. After being a guest in the hotel for about an hour, he left through one of the side doors of the motel - facing the back parking lot of the Agave Grill restaurant, also on Queen Street - and opened fire on Roque, who was talking on his cell phone, DePalma said.
Mroczek walked toward the front office and shot Aluria through a glass door. He stayed conscious and alert, witnesses said. The shooter then turned the gun on himself.
When police arrived, they found the three men lying on the ground in front of the motel. Mroczek was pronounced dead at The Hospital of Central Connecticut at New Britain General. Roque was taken first to Bradley Hospital in Southington, then to Hartford Hospital via LifeStar Helicopter.
"It was an unprovoked attack," DePalma said.
Mroczek had been depressed ever since his wife, Laurie Anne Mroczek, died March 11 from an accidental overdose of painkillers she had been taking for headaches and back pain, according to her stepfather, Marcel Jalbert, a former Bristol resident, who last saw his son-in-law Wednesday at his house.
"Joe said he didn't want to go along without her," said Jalbert, 73, whose home was Joseph Mroczek's last permanent address. "I saw him the day before yesterday. He picked up his mail and showed me a new gun that he had bought. He was talking about going practice shooting. It was a 9 mm Smith & Wesson.
"He didn't seem like he was ready to go out on a rampage or anything," Jalbert said. "From here, he was leaving for Connecticut to put flowers on his wife's grave."
The Mroczeks had been happily married for about 15 years, Jalbert said, and his stepdaughter died in her husband's arms before paramedics arrived. Mroczek called 911 and tried to revive her when he discovered she wasn't breathing. It was too late.
Mroczek, who was taking painkillers himself for a back injury, never got over his wife's death.
"We learned to move on," Jalbert said of his immediate family. "We did not take it as hard as he did. She was all he had. They didn't have any children. He would sulk. It was just plain discontent with life in general."
Mroczek, a Catholic, had told his father-in-law he was afraid he would "snap" and hurt someone. He feared he would "have to pay for it in the next life."
"That is why I was very surprised when I heard it - he was so totally against shooting someone else," Jalbert said. "But something made him snap."
Not long after the death of his wife, Mroczek's in-laws told him they wanted him out. So he had been staying at a motel in Brattleboro, Vt.
"It was time for him to find a new life," Jalbert said. "I told him that, but not exactly in those words. I think he sensed it was time for him to find another place - he was not wanted any more. We were not relatives."
Mroczek had last seen his in-laws Wednesday, when he went to their home to pick up his mail.
"We all have mood swings, but I didn't notice anything serious," Jalbert said. "I am very disturbed by this, because it is difficult to understand."
Jalbert said he didn't think anything of his son-in-law's new gun, because he always had guns. He would buy one, trade it for another one and so on, he said. Police said the gun was legal- bought in New Hampshire, registered in Pennsylvania, where the couple had lived when they were first married.
"Everybody up here has guns for hunting and target shooting," Jalbert explained. "He never hurt anybody."
That is, until Thursday night, during his last visit to Connecticut, police said.
Laurie Anne Mroczek was cremated in Brattleboro, and her ashes were buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Bristol. The reason Joseph Mroczek was in Connecticut was to visit her grave, and to put flowers on it, Jalbert said.
It is not clear whether he accomplished his mission before killing himself - or shot two people and himself on the way there.
Jalbert said he learned of his son-in-law's death from Southington detectives, who called him Friday.
Police said they do not believe there was any connection between the victims and shooter, but detectives are still investigating, DePalma said.
"Whatever the truth was, the man took it to his grave," Travelers Inn day manager Gerri Marchewka said, adding that Aluria and Roque were simply "at the wrong place at the wrong time" when Mroczek decided to use his handgun to vent his "personal problems."
ŠThe Herald 2008
, Women's Issues/Studies
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