Mon. May 20th, 2024

It was one of the most horrific murder cases in Connecticut history. A woman slashing with a box cutter at the throats of two young children in the warped notion that, once free of them, their father would marry her.

In 2005, the State Supreme Court found no reason to overturn the capital felony and other convictions of Chasity West, who had faced a possible death sentence for fatally slitting the throat of 7-year-old Jarrell Cuyler and seriously wounding his 2-year-old sister, Lindsey, in Windsor seven years ago this month.

The Supreme Court, in striking down Chasity’s myriad challenges to her convictions, called her motive “almost as unfathomable as the crimes themselves.”

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Chasity was even related to the children, being first cousin to their mother, Tammi Cuyler. But emotions ran high and the relationship chilled when Chasity began having an affair with the children’s father, Arnold Cuyler, soon after Lindsey was born in August 1995.

Chasity, a licensed practical nurse, had been baby-sitting the children regularly when the affair began. The Cuylers were divorced in March 1996. The relationship between Chasity and Arnold Cuyler continued, but Chasity was intensely jealous of the time and money Arnold Cuyler continued to devote to his children, and his refusal to leave the state with her.

Arnold Cuyler maintained an apartment in Bristol and had custody of his children every other weekend and two nights a week. Chasity lived with her parents in Windsor.

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Chasity was so obsessively jealous that she would spy on Arnold Cuyler when he went to pick up the children at the home Tammi Cuyler bought after they were divorced. Chasity, who was not welcome there, would ask younger relatives to describe its layout. Meanwhile, according to the court’s unanimous ruling and relating of events, Arnold Cuyler told Chasity he could never marry her “because she was Tammi’s cousin and because of the tension in the family.”

Family tensions intensified in 1998, when Tammi Cuyler asked church elders to investigate whether her ex-husband had committed adultery.

Chasity, furious, enlisted a cousin’s boyfriend — 18-year-old Alexis Grajales — ostensibly to help her vandalize Tammi Cuyler’s home to intimidate her. Grajales said Chasity told him she did not want to kill Tammi Cuyler, because then she might wind up having to take care of the two children, which she had no desire to do.

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According to testimony, Chasity’s murderous mission was well thought out, even to the detail of having a young cousin steal a spare key to the house from Lindsey’s diaper bag. Tammi Cuyler kept it there so her ex-husband could pick up and return the children to her home while she was at work.

The assault was carried out in the early morning hours of July 9, 1998. Chasity led Grajales to believe Lindsey and Jarrell were with their grandmother. Instead, they were sleeping with their mother in her bed. In a nearby crib was a cousin, Daniel Henderson.

Chasity and Grajales entered the house using a duplicate of the key stolen from the diaper bag. Tammi Cuyler, startled by the sound of the front door opening, approached. Grajales pinned her face down to the floor. Chasity raced to the children’s bedrooms, but found them empty. She came downstairs and entered Tammi Cuyler’s bedroom. Soon, Cuyler heard Lindsey whimper and her son say, “What are you doing?”

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Cuyler fought to elude Grajales’ grasp, tearing off a latex glove and his wristwatch in the process. When Grajales realized Chasity was harming the children, he fled.

“A scene of unimaginable horror awaited Tammi in her bedroom,” Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote, in a ruling akin to a true crime mystery novel. The decision describes in vivid detail Lindsey standing inside the door with blood pouring from a wound in her arm. Tammi Cuyler instinctively raced for a towel to compress the wound. She believed Jarrell was curled up asleep until she turned him over to see that he had been nearly decapitated. Tammi told the police dispatcher she feared he was dead. She was right.

The baby, Daniel Henderson, was unharmed.

For more than a week the crime remained unsolved. Until Chasity’s conflicting stories of her whereabouts that night caught up with her. During an interrogation, Windsor Police Sgt. Mark Francis placed in front of Chasity three autopsy photos of Jarrell Cuyler. They vividly illustrated the slash that nearly severed his head from his torso.

“Who killed Jarrell?” Francis asked her.

“I did,” she replied, and buried her face in her hands. “What have I done?”

Chasity later denied she had confessed to the crime, saying the conversation was taken out of context. The jury did not believe her. But they spared her a death sentence.

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On appeal, Chasity claimed her fair trial rights were violated because she was not allowed to present evidence of finger and palm prints from the upstairs bathroom door and master bedroom door of Tammi Cuyler’s home. The lower court ruled the prints were irrelevant, because there was no way to know who left them or when. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Chasity, through her lawyers — Hope Seeley and Hubert Santos — also challenged the admission of testimony and evidence about hair samples that tended to incriminate her, challenging their scientific reliability. The Supreme Court rejected this claim as well, saying there was no need for a Porter hearing — an in-depth analysis of the scientific basis of the analysis — because it had been used for years and was not that complex, requiring jurors only their powers of observation and comparison.

The justices also found no merit in claims that juror misconduct prejudiced Chasity’s fair trial rights. That two alternate jurors participated in the selection of the jury foreman, and an alternate later called a regular juror to check on the status of deliberations, were improper but harmless errors, the court concluded. A third incident, involving conversations about taking a straw poll on guilt or innocence before the deliberations even began, also was deemed harmless because the vote never occurred.

Other claims by Chasity of improperly barred evidence and tainted jury instructions also failed. Seeley and Santos could not be reached for comment on the court’s ruling.

Chasity West is currently serving a life sentence sentence without possibility of parole plus another 7 years.

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born |