Homicide marks city’s 24th

The body of an East Haven woman discovered on a main downtown street has been ruled a homicide, potentially marking New Haven’s 24th murder of the year — as many as any year-end total in the past decade.

Police found Cassandra Mead, 22, strangled to death on the corner of Union and Water streets — one block from police headquarters and next to the Knights of Columbus museum — on Saturday morning. The New Haven Police Department is still looking into the incident, but if investigators determine that Mead was killed within city lines, she would mark the 24th homicide of the year for the Elm City. Last year saw 24 murders in total and New Haven only had 13 killings in 2009. This increase over the past two years has led some mayoral candidates to accuse incumbent John DeStefano Jr. of not safeguarding New Haven’s citizens.

Though New Haven’s murder rate is set to be higher than at any time in recent history, assaults and shootings have remained at normal, though still high, levels.

The only reported shooting in the past week occurred Tuesday night, when a man was mugged at gunpoint in Fair Haven by three assailants, NHPD spokesman Joseph Avery said in an email. When the man refused, one of the muggers shot him in the ankle.

As the New Haven mayoral race draws near, the murder rate has become a political talking point. Some opponents have attacked incumbent DeStefano for not taking a stand against the high homicide level.

“The mayor has capitalized on excuses, blaming everybody else, including his own sworn department, parents, neighborhood leaders and the State,” mayoral candidate Jeffrey Kerekes said in an Aug. 1 press release following New Haven’s 20th murder. “While he avoids confronting this reality, he presides over a murder each weekend.”

The vast majority of New Haven murders have been drug- or gang-related. As of Wednesday night, the NHPD has not released any details of the investigation that would indicate a motive in the Mead homicide. Some reports, though, indicate that the victim was involved in drugs.

The New Haven Register reported Tuesday that Mead had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had struggled with addiction.

“She was starting to go down the wrong path, hanging out with the wrong people,” her father, Gary Mead, told the Register. “We were trying to get her on the right path.”

The least deadly year in recent history for the city was 2003, when only 8 murders were recorded.

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