A state-appointed public defender said Friday that New Britain resident James D’Aquila, who has been charged with beating his mother to death at her Southington home, suffers from schizophrenia and needs medical attention.
Public Defender Peter Matthews asked that D’Aquila be offered medical assistance and be held in the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown.
D’Aquila, 34, was arraigned in Bristol Superior Court Friday morning on charges of murder, felony murder, first-degree robbery and third-degree assault. He was ordered held in lieu of a $1.5 million bond, according to court records.
Police said an animal control officer who was asked to conduct a welfare check on 64-year-old Donna D’Aquila and her two cats inside Jensen’s Trailer Park around 2 p.m. Thursday.
Detectives immediately ruled the death as “suspicious,” said Sgt. Lowell DePalma and were able to take James D’Aquila, of 50 High Street in New Britain, into custody on probable cause. An affidavit was later filed with Bristol Superior Court.
A judge on Friday morning granted a motion by state prosecutors to suppress the affidavit, citing that the case remains under investigation and releasing further information could be harmful to the case.
“There was evidence besides the fact that her car was in James D’Aquila’s possession that suggested he was involved in the homicide,” DePalma said. “She suffered from blunt force trauma to the head, but no weapon was used.”
An autopsy was conducted Friday, according to staff with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington, but staff declined to comment pending official identification of Donna D’Aquila. It is unknown whether there were any other living relatives and D’Aquila did not have any other children, officials said.
The additional evidence found was not released on Friday. Police said the attack likely took place on Saturday, Feb. 4.
The normally quiet neighborhood, tucked back in the eastern end of the trailer park, had already returned to normal on Friday morning, but neighbors said it would be hard to shake the thought of something as horrific as a murder taking place in their community.
Neighbors interviewed by police said there had been several instances of shouting and verbal confrontations coming from Donna D’Aquila’s South Road home in recent months, with the latest incident occurring on Feb. 4, police said. The incident wasn’t reported to police until after the homicide was discovered on Thursday, DePalma said.
Officers arrested James D’Auqila at his New Britain residence where he was in possession of the stolen Nissan Altima. Police said Friday afternoon that the car was found at the New Britain Public Library, not at his home.
“We were shocked when we found out what happened,” said Jeannine Chasse, Donna D’Aquila’s next-door neighbor. “It’s puzzling to think she was left just lying in the home. Who knows how long she was lying there injured before she finally passed away. It’s very sad.”
Neighbor Claude Boutote said he would see D’Aquila at the bottom of the hill leading to their homes almost daily prior to last weekend and she was always friendly, but said very little. Typically, she kept to herself, he said.
D’Aquila revealed to several neighbors shortly after moving to the neighborhood five years ago just before her 60th birthday that she was both bi-polar and schizophrenic, but received treatment for the disorders.
Her condition made it difficult for neighbors to realize what happened, Boutote said. Several times in the past year, she had been taken to the hospital due to illness and would spend as long as a month away from her home.
But Donna D’Aquila also shared that she was afraid of the dark and when the lights in her home remained off day and night for almost a week, Boutote said he became concerned about her well-being and the well-being of her cats.
“Those lights were never off. Something wasn’t right,” he said.
Neighbors knew little about James D’Aquila and said he would come around every now and again, but was extremely reclusive and never seemed to reach out to neighbors or even say hello.
“He never said anything, just came and went. I don’t think anyone really knew much about him,” Chasse said.
D'Aquila has shown patterns of violence in the past, according to court records. He was arrested in 2002 and later convicted on charges of second-degree unlawful restraint and third-degree assault, according to court records.
He was sentenced to one year on each count and released after time served, records showed. He remained on probation through 2010.
The case has been transferred to Part A at New Britain Superior Court, a division of the state’s court system which handles more serious offenses. D’Aquila is due back in court on Feb. 16, according to court records.