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Man to serve six years for drug-fueled attack on senior in New London

April 29, 2019 GMT

The mother of a man who assaulted and robbed an 88-year-old man in the parking lot of a Walgreens in New London last year thanked a judge Monday for keeping her son in prison while his case was pending in New London Superior Court.

“You’ve saved his life by keeping him in,” said Laura Natale, mother of 38-year-old Jason Natale of Brookfield. 

The mother and several other family members were in the courtroom Monday as Judge Hillary B. Strackbein sentenced Natale to six years in prison, followed by five years probation, for first-degree robbery and third-degree assault on an elderly person.

It was Natale’s parents who had viewed surveillance video and identified their son as the assailant following the June 4, 2018 incident at 698 Bank St.

Natale, who was addicted to heroin, had failed at one drug rehabilitation program and was scheduled to enter another when he accosted the victim in the pharmacy parking lot at 698 Bank St. on June 4, 2018, according to city police.

Natale accosted the victim after the man placed shopping bags on the back seat of his Mercury Sable and was putting his credit card in his wallet. Natale grabbed the wallet and yelled, “Give me your keys.” The man said he resisted, and as the fight continued, Natale stated, “Do you want me to knife you?” several times. Natale grabbed the keys and shoved the victim, causing him to fall backward and hit his head.

The man said he got up and went to the car, where he noticed Natale’s backpack. He said he grabbed it and threw it away from the car so Natale couldn’t get it. The backpack contained a cellphone and an airline boarding pass with Natale’s name on it.

The victim, who was treated at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, was unable to identify Natale as his attacker in a photo lineup presented by police. Natale’s parents watched a video that captured part of the incident and told police the attacker was their son.

Defense attorney Michael S. Hillis said Natale was a heroin addict who had been trying to self-medicate due to underlying mental health issues. He said now that Natale is clean, he is horrified about what happened.

The victim, who did not attend the sentencing hearing, had deferred to court officials as to how the case should be resolved and said he hoped Natale gets his life together, according to prosecutor Lawrence J. Tytla. He said that given how fragile people in their late 80s are, “I think we can all be grateful there were not more serious injuries.”

“I really am sorry,” Natale said. “I wish I could tell him face to face.”

According to police, Natale had returned from a treatment program in Florida 10 days before the incident. He went to a halfway house in East Haven, but his probation officer told police it had gone badly, and Natale was planning to go to the Southeastern Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence detoxification facility in New London followed by a six month treatment program at Lebanon Pines.

After stealing the victim’s car, Natale told his father he rented a hotel room and attempted to kill himself using narcotics, according to the affidavit. His father told police that when Natale woke up the next morning and realized what he had done, he called his parents, who met him in a Danbury parking lot. The father said Natale gave them the keys to the stolen car and they took him to the Danbury Hospital Crisis Center. The parents gave the keys to Brookfield police and said their son had warned them there was a hypodermic needle in the car.

Laura Natale said her son is alive “by the grace of God,” and that he would have never have done something like this if he was in his right mind. She said something has be done about the addiction crisis and that she feels sorry for people who don’t have their family behind them, as does her son.

“It’s a horrible plague on our society,” said Judge Strackbein as she imposed the sentence. She said both the elderly man and Natale’s parents were victims of his addiction.

k.florin@theday.com