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Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 2:23 a.m.
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Liability trial starts in Conn. cop murder-suicide

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 15, 2014 at 1:56 p.m.

HARTFORD, Conn. — When Connecticut state trooper Victor Diaz killed his ex-girlfriend and himself in 2005, he used his personal handgun that had been seized by state police after he was charged with drunken driving but was returned to his brother four months before the killings. Diaz was living with his brother at the time.

Now, more than eight years later, a trial has begun to determine whether state police are liable for the death of Diaz's ex-girlfriend, Newington police officer Ciara McDermott.

McDermott's family alleges in a lawsuit that state police never should have returned the gun to Diaz's brother because they knew or should have known that Diaz might become violent. State officials deny the allegations.

Judge Trial Referee Joseph Shortall began hearing evidence in the case this past week in Hartford Superior Court. There is no jury. Attorneys in the case expect testimony on whether state police were liable to end Wednesday.

If the judge rules in favor of McDermott's family, the trial would continue to determine what damages should be awarded. If he rules in favor of the state, the trial would end.

It's not clear how much money McDermott's family is seeking, though they requested $5 million when they asked the state claims commissioner for permission to sue the state. The family's lawyer, Joseph Hourihan, didn't return messages seeking comment.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Beizer, who is representing the state, said the lawsuit's allegations aren't true.

"It's a tragic case, but it's just wrong to look to the state of Connecticut for anything," he said. "I feel bad for the family, but the state didn't do anything wrong."

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