CT Post reporter MariAn Gail Brown writes a poignant piece about the city’s latest murder victim. James Cleary tried to work it out with his noisy neighbor, he contacted the landlord, he called the police, but he ended up dead.
The framed pictures hanging in Mary and James Cleary’s studio apartment fell off the walls, and the glass protecting them shattered. So the couple cleaned that up.
Then the shelves in a book case started shaking, causing a vase to tumble to the floor and break. Again the couple swept away the mess. It was because of the loud music coming from Apartment C4 upstairs.
In the middle of the night, the Clearys would hear their upstairs neighbor stomp around his apartment, at times dribbling a basketball or rolling a bowling ball around. For a finale, the tenant would slam a heavy object into the floor. Over and over and over again.
This became such a regular occurrence that nails in the floor of Apartment C4 now poked through the Clearys’ ceiling.
The Clearys moved into their Benham Avenue apartment in the Hollow section of Bridgeport in September 2011, and from the moment they arrived, Mary Cleary says, the guy upstairs has tormented them every single day.
Her husband, James Cleary, has nothing to say about the Jamaican-music playing tenant and his nocturnal habits because he’s dead. He was stabbed to death Tuesday night shortly after confronting Cargil Nicholson, the music-blasting neighbor.
Nicholson admits to killing Cleary, according to a police report, but claims his act was in self defense. In an interview with police, he explained he approached the door with the expectation that it was police knocking because he always plays his music loud.
In fact, it was James Cleary, shouting something Nicholson says he couldn’t understand. Maybe because the music was too loud. The Clearys called police more than a dozen times over the past several months about the noise from Nicholson’s apartment. Sometimes, they’d wait 4-to-5 hours for an officer to arrive.
“What with all of the other things Bridgeport police have to deal with crimewise — the murders, the robberies and all the violence in this city,” Mary Cleary says, “I was almost embarrassed to call them about this noise. You know it’s like they have more important things to do.”
Not one of Bridgeport police’s appearances on the Clearys’ numerous prior complaints resulted in any arrests, let alone a summons. Each time, however, Mary Cleary says, “the “police would say, ‘If we have to come back again, someone’s gonna get arrested.’ But that never happened.”
Imagine James Cleary’s frustration. Exasperated after a polite request to pipe down with the late-night loud music was ignored, he and his wife call their landlord, Rocco Williams, for assistance. Williams confirms he told the couple and Nicholson, “People just gotta learn to get along, and if you have problems with each other call the cops.”
The speakers along with Nicholson’s nighttime noise would abate in the early evening, Mary Cleary says, and then “pick back up at two o’clock in the morning. It would start about an hour before this neighbor knew we had to get up for work.”
James Cleary worked two jobs a day, every day, seven days a week. His workday was 15 hours long. After selling newspapers to motorists in traffic, he worked for his brother’s tree service, mowing lawns and pruning trees.
Things deteriorated so fast that the Clearys learned to cope by donning “headphones at night and taking sleeping pills,” she says. “We’d sleep through the night with our headphones on.”
But the headgear didn’t always blot out enough noise.
“Sometimes, if we wanted a good night sleep, we’d get into our car,” she says. “We’d conk out there. It was the only place where we could get peace.”
A person’s home, even if it’s a tiny studio apartment, is supposed to his sanctuary. Instead, the Clearys’ turned into a hell hole very fast. They tried to work it out with their upstairs neighbor. They complained to their landlord. They notified police. Nothing ever changed–until Tuesday when James Cleary knocked on his neighbor’s door for the last time.