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Father of Norwich dog attack victim identified as person of interest in New London arson

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A Norwich infant was killed in a dog attack late Monday, and the child's father was later named as a person of interest in a suspected arson in New London early Tuesday.

New London police on Tuesday morning identified the infant's father, Timothy Settles, 32, as a "person of interest to be questioned with respect to an arson investigation." New London police Chief Peter Reichard, addressing news media outside the burned home at 10 Rosemary St., said Settles was at the home prior to the start of the fire.

Settles is the father of 1-month-old Carter Settles, who died in the dog attack at 36 McKinley Ave. in Norwich about 8:40 p.m. Monday, police said.

The baby's mother and grandmother — Timothy Settles' mother — were at the Norwich apartment when the child was attacked by a male pit bull mix, a family dog, according to Norwich police. Timothy Settles was not present.

Norwich police at a news conference Tuesday afternoon said the dog jumped on one of the adults, who was holding the baby, and attacked the baby. The child suffered "multiple traumatic injuries," police said, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Norwich police Lt. John Perry said the family is devastated and police are offering what support they can to the family.

"They're dealing with something that’s ripped away from them," Perry said. "As you can imagine, any person in that environment would be grieving and be very confused about the whole thing."

The dog attack is not being treated as a criminal incident, said police, who referred to it as a tragedy. The dog is being held at the Norwich dog pound under a state-mandated 14-day quarantine period. Perry said it's too early in the investigation to say whether the city would seek a dog destruction order.

Timothy Settles no longer lives at the McKinley Avenue apartment, police said Tuesday. But he had lived there when he was arrested by Norwich police last September in an assault on a pregnant woman there, police said. He was charged with disorderly conduct, third-degree assault and interfering with police in that incident. He pleaded guilty to the assault and to interfering with police and is free on a written promise to appear in court on June 25.

A police report detailing Settles’ arrest in September described him as someone who was known to the police as uncooperative.

The report said police responded to a call about a disturbance in the back of Settles’ residence on Sept. 19. The pregnant victim told police that Settles had lured her home from work by falsely claiming their apartment was on fire.

The woman said their argument turned physical, when he began hitting her on the head and scratching her neck, according to the report. Police identified bruising to the woman’s forehead and a laceration to the back of her neck.

Police said Settles resisted when officers tried to put him in handcuffs. It took three officers to handcuff his hands in front of his body, as he was on the ground on his back, the report said. He was unable to be processed due to his “irate behavior” and was placed in a holding cell at Norwich Police Department. He was read his rights, fingerprinted and photographed the next day.

Settles remains at large following the New London fire, according to New London police, who described him as about 6 feet tall, weighing 240 pounds and unshaven. He may be driving a white BMW with New York registration plates, police said. Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts is asked to contact New London police at (860) 447-5269, ext. 0.

Norwich police would not comment on New London’s arson investigation. But Norwich police are continuing to investigate the dog attack and are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Steve Callender at (860) 886-5561, ext. 4, or scallender@cityofnorwich.org. All information can be kept confidential.

"Our investigation doesn’t have anything to do with New London’s investigation," Perry said, when asked if Norwich police were also looking to talk to Settles. "But we never refrain from talking to anyone who wants to talk to us."

New London fire under investigation

One person was taken to the hospital for evaluation and multiple people were displaced by the early morning fire at the two-family home at 10 Rosemary St.

The blaze was reported at 4 a.m., and firefighters arrived to find flames on the first floor that had extended into the walls, to the second floor and to an enclosed porch on the first floor. Fire Chief Thomas Curcio said a second alarm was called to bring in mutual aid from Groton, Waterford and the Naval Submarine Base fire departments.

New London officials have not detailed how the fire started but have indicated that evidence indicates it was intentionally set. The city fire marshal was joined at the scene by police officers and investigators with the state fire marshal’s office. A dog trained to detect accelerants, such as gasoline, also was called in to aid the investigation.

One woman was taken to the hospital for evaluation and later released. The Red Cross was called to assist with the emergency needs of four occupants of the home.

After the fire was brought under control, the home was cordoned off with crime scene tape. The two-story stucco home appears to have suffered significant damage with multiple broken windows and charring visible on the siding around the first floor windows.

Investigators could be seen walking in and out of the home throughout Tuesday morning.

Neighbor: Dog was well behaved

In Norwich, neighbors were surprised to find out the cause of the police activity at the McKinley Avenue apartment building Monday night.

Nearby resident Gabriel Correa said flashing lights from firetrucks and police cars aren't totally unusual, due to false alarms or other routine causes.

Correa, who was on a daily walks up and down the street about noon on Tuesday, said he was used to seeing a woman he identified as the baby's mother around the neighborhood with her pit bull-type dog. More recently, he'd see her walking with a newborn strapped to her chest and the dog on a leash.

He described her as a "nice, respectful lady."

Correa said the dog was well behaved when he'd stop to say hello.

"He was a dog from the neighborhood. He's used to seeing people. Every time I'd approach, he'd never bark," Correa said.

Several other residents in the vicinity of the apartment building said the dogs in the neighborhood are well controlled.

Norwich police on Tuesday said nobody else was attacked by the dog and there were no other children in the apartment.

Police said it was a very difficult scene for everyone involved. Three members of the police department's chaplain program arrived immediately to provide support to the family and the responding officers, police said.

Perry said the incident hit officers hard.

"Obviously, it's very tragic," he said. "We’re fathers, we’re mothers. We have had children at one point at that age, or who are at that age, or they’re expecting. Just like any type of grieving, they just don’t understand those types of incidents. We are dedicating whatever we can to our men and women here at the Norwich Police Department, American Ambulance and also the Norwich Fire Department to help us through this difficult situation."

c.bessette@theday.com

e.regan@theday.com

g.smith@theday.com

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