When Noise Leads To Murder

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.



    1. A senseless and ruthless act of violence that resulted in the death of a man who was unable to enjoy any quality of life due to living conditions imposed on him by an inconsiderate neighbor. The landlord should be held responsible for not evicting the offending tenant. I say with almost all certainty, other tenants also endured sleepless nights because of the behavior of one person. Noise ordinances are in place for a reason and should be enforced. I do not know the victim, but my condolences to his family and friends.

      1. And to read the Landlord went on public record saying “I told them they need to learn to get along, and if they take issue with each other, call the police” only adds credence and validity to any contentions and claims Mary Cleary may have concerning the repeated reporting of this behavior to him, by the deceased. Let him be held liable for wrongful death or something to that effect. He should be.

        1. Yes indeed. A lease is a contractual agreement between landlord and tenant. The landlord, in exchange for rent, is required to provide suitable living conditions, and that includes a tenant’s right to have peace and quiet in his living quarters. If there is a tenant who is disruptive (as in this case), there is responsibility placed on the landlord to either alleviate the problem or evict the offender. He obviously didn’t even attempt to intervene, which makes him partly responsible for the outcome, which resulted in the murder of an innocent victim. However, its not likely he can be charged with wrongful death, the charge won’t stick, but he needs to be held accountable for failure to provide suitable living conditions and ignoring the complaints of the Clearys. “Learn to get along” just doesn’t cut it, hardly a suitable remedy for the problem.

  1. I saw Jimmy almost every day and on nice days he would bring his dog with him. He made me smile and think here is a guy trying to make it, if only more people were like him.
    That brings me to why Jimmy was killed. The Finch administration and the Police Department do not care about quality of life issues. This was clearly a quality of life issue. No one should be subject to what the Clearys were subjected to. Imagine you have an apartment but yet you have to sleep in your car to get away from the music and the noise. Imagine you call the police several times and what do you get? You get a 5-hr response, the offender gets the standard bullshit message if I come back here you will be arrested. Why wasn’t he arrested then? Too much paperwork?
    Chief Gaudett has transformed the police department into a group(s) of specialists and leaves 105 cops out of 400-plus to cover the city 24-7.
    I want to be clear here, 105 cops 24-7!!! Many times when you call the PD for vandalism you have suffered or stolen cars or strangers roaming your neighborhood you do NOT get a response from an officer, you get an incident number. I know because I went through having my tires slashed three times. I did not get a police response until my wife went to the PD and said she wanted to file a complaint against the police department.
    One may ask why send a cop to an incident when it’s already over? Well when a cop finally arrived he told me I must be the target of someone who doesn’t like me. Well then I would have 1,000 suspects. I wrote a live letter to the Post and received four telephone calls from people in my area who all suffered the same loss and were told the same thing by an officer, “you must be the target.” The beat cop was unaware of any of the calls because he never responded to any of the calls all of which became a police statistic and I bet the PD brass includes these calls as a police response when in effect there was no response.
    We deserve to lead quiet and peaceful lives without harassment from anti-social assholes. It’s time for Gaudett to rethink all of this bullshit with community cops and sett units. Start enforcing the law from a quality-of-life point of view.

  2. “I would be afraid to let a Bridgeport cop into my home. 25% of them are pieces of shit.” That is what a retired Bridgeport police officer told me! Shortly after he and his wife moved out of Bridgeport to a nice home and quiet setting up the line. Drive around on the third shift. If you see a cop you will find them in some back alley or parking lot catching some ZZZs. No leadership and total lack of discipline within this dept. Look at the leaders from the Mayor on down! What can you expect! And for the guy who killed Jimmy, sounds like a born loser with a third-grade education. A dime a dozen in this city.

    1. Whoever said that to you was being unduly harsh on his brother officers. Being a police officer in any urban city has to be one of the worst jobs in the world. Not everyone has what it takes to don a uniform and worry about whether or not he or she will survive a shift. As far as the born loser, my guess would be this person may not even be a legal resident in this country to begin with.

  3. I don’t know where this chief or his advisers came up with the sett unit but it doesn’t work and neither does community policing, whatever that is.
    It’s pure and simple, we need to do quality-of-life policing first. That’s how Mayor Giuliani started in New York, he had squeegee guys arrested, he had panhandlers arrested, by doing this he got the people in New York to think somebody gave a shit. Thus an increase in cooperation from the public.
    Here we have a loud party in some off-campus apartment with say 100 college kids illegally drinking. Well here in Bridgeport the brass calls cabs for the drunks. Do they investigate if this is an illegal apartment. NO!!! Do they notify housing? NO!!!
    Calling the police in this city is a giant pain in the ass. First you have someone asking you 100 questions from a script she/he is reading. Then in many cases the crime you are reporting doesn’t qualify for a 911 call so along with a lecture you are told to call another number. God damn it we paid millions for a new call center and we get less response than we had before the new center.
    Let’s get rid of all of these over-the-hill 30-40 years of service do-nothing deputy chiefs and replace them with aggressive supervisors. Let’s institute a mandatory retirement age. BTW Dave Dunn, it can be done.
    I for one won’t call the PD anymore if I need an incident number, I will go to PD headquarters and let one of the rubber-gun squad fill out the report. The people of Bridgeport are sick of this crap.

  4. *** Someone dropped the ball on quality of life tenants’ rights, starting with the building’s owners, no? *** Wait ’til summertime in “da port!” ***


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