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New Fairfield murder leaves friends grasping for answers

April 29, 2019 GMT

NEW FAIRFIELD - During the hardest moments of Mark Garrahan’s life, his best friend was always there with the kind of unconditional support that transformed the pain.

But when the shocking news reached Garrahan that his best friend had been senselessly bludgeoned and stabbed to death in his New Fairfield home by his own wife, who then took her life, Garrahan felt a great absence that had all the makings of a death he might not get over.

“You go through this disbelief, where you start calling everybody you can think of to see what they know,” Garrahan said of the mid-April murder of Michael Ciorra by his wife Jennifer Ciorra. “But it may turn out to be that this is a sad tragedy, with no one you can blame.”

Garrahan’s praise for his lost friend and dismay that answers about Ciorra’s death are so elusive represents the first time someone close to the murdered father of two has spoken publicly since police revealed on April 15 that he and his wife had been found dead at their Cornell Road home.

State Police have refused to release even basic facts of the death, claiming a statute meant to protect victims of domestic violence bars it.

The coroner ruled Ciorra died from a bludgeon wound to the head and stabbing wounds to the body, and that his wife died by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The couple’s two sons are living with relatives.

“Mike didn’t ever indicate to me or any of us who he was close to that there was ever any trouble (with his wife),” said Garrahan, who met Ciorra on a neighborhood stickball lot in Garnerville, N.Y., in 1979. “I know I may have to just accept it, but what this creates is an inability to get over it.”

At a private but packed funeral service last week, Garrahan used the opportunity to ask everyone close to his best friend whether anyone had seen red flags.

No, they all said.

In the absence of answers, Ciorra’s friends and family found solace in memories of a humble man with a generous spirit who was the best man at more weddings than some people could count.

The short version of Garrahan’s 40-year-friendship with Ciorra is that it started in childhood when Ciorra moved up from the Bronx with his four brothers and sisters.

They grew close growing up in a Garnerville, a suburban community off the west bank of the Hudson River. They swam in neighborhood pools, drank beer in the local woods, and after college rented beach homes on the Jersey shore each summer.

Ciorra was there for the highs in Garrahan’s life, such as when he made Eagle Scout, and at the hardest parts of his life.

“When my brother shot himself, my father told us to put it out of our heads and to move on,” Garrahan said. “When I tried to do that and couldn’t, my best friend Mike was there to hug me and be by my side through my loss.”

Garrahan saw less of Ciorra when he got married and moved to Connecticut, but they still kept in touch, and made sure they told each other how much they appreciated their friendship.

Ciorra had in recent years started a new job as a business operations manager in New York after a career at IBM.

“We were just really tight friends, who always had each other’s back,” Garrahan said.

rryser@newstimes.com 203-731-3342