In his nearly 25 years with the Avon Police Department, there were no red flags that suggested Sgt. Thomas Jacius was having trouble at home or would ever be violent or suicidal, Avon Police Chief Paul Melanson said Monday.
A week after Jacius died by suicide following the murder of his wife and high school sweetheart Doreen Jacius, Melanson said everyone who knew the sergeant is still “trying to connect the dots” and understand how they could have been so blindsided by one of their own.
“Everybody is looking at themselves saying ‘How did we miss this?’” said Melanson at the Avon Police Department on Monday afternoon.
The chief said the entire department has been overwhelmed as they grappled with the news that Jacius and his wife died in an apparent murder-suicide on Aug. 28. They’re struggling, he said, to understand what happened at the Jacius’ home last Sunday, when Jacius was found dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound and his wife, the town’s beloved library director, was fatally shot at least three times, according to police and a medical examiner.
Jacius would have been with the department for 25 years this October. He served as a patrol officer, an undercover narcotics officer, volunteered with the police explorers and hosted events like “bike rodeos” in the community where he taught children the ABC’s — air, brakes, chains — of bike safety and led them through obstacle courses.
He was an avid mountain biker who participated every year in a charity bike ride for people with cancer following his own daughter Amanda’s battle with a brain tumor when she was just 3 years old, said Lt. John Schmalberger.
The week of the shootings, he had plans to go fishing with another member of the department, Melanson said.
At a recent supervisor’s meeting, he was smiling and laughing, Melanson said. Nothing about his behavior in the days before the murder-suicide seemed out of character. That has left them “with more questions than answers,” Melanson said.
“How can somebody who represented us, the Avon Police Department, so well for almost 25 years, do this?” he asked. But that question, he said, “pales in comparison to what everybody is considering about his daughters.”
The couple left behind a 21-year-old daughter who still lived at home with them, police said, and a 19-year-old daughter who was away at college in Florida. It was not clear whether their older daughter was home at the time of the shootings.
An obituary for Doreen Jacius said “her daughters were the focus of her life, creating experiences and making lasting memories with them.”
Melanson said that the couple’s eldest daughter experienced medical issues in her childhood, and the department rallied around the family.
His daughter had a brain tumor when she was 3, said Schmalberger, and members of the department cooked meals for them and did all the “things you would do for a close family member whose child was sick.”
“I think that’s another part of the family feeling betrayed, getting to know the family a little bit,” said Melanson. “I can only imagine what the families of Doreen and the Jacius’ are going through because I know what the rank and file here are going through.”
Knowing Thomas Jacius as a family man, and interacting with his family, has spurred some of the officers’ shock into anger, Melanson said. They’re left wondering: “How could somebody sworn to protect and to serve, and do so so well for so many years, work side by side, and then do something like this?”
By killing his wife and dying by suicide, Melanson said Jacius left his department, his daughters and the rest of their families to pick up the pieces of the lives and families he has shattered.”
Jacius’ extensive personnel file, provided by the department Monday, featured positive evaluations by his superiors and recommendations for promotion, including his promotion to sergeant in 2001.
His evaluations suggest he had taken the initiative to engage more with the community, receive further training and climb the ranks in the department.
The files included commendations from then-governor M. Jodi Rell for a response to a fatal crash, a letter of “heartfelt thanks” sent by the parents of a child who Jacius worked with, police merit awards and certificate of recognition for “extraordinary contribution to the fight against drunk driving.”
At the time of his death, he served as a weapons armorer — a person who disassembles, cleans and checks out department-issue weapons — a firearm instructor, a bike squad supervisorand an instructor for Simunition, a paint-based imitation ammunition training, according to records and Schmalberger.
Melanson said the Avon Police Department is in possession of Jacius’ duty weapon but deferred to Connecticut State Police as to whether his department-issued firearm was used in the murder.
Said that officers do take their assigned weapons home when they are off duty but are required to keep them secured in a locked container when it is not in their direct control.
As of July 2020, his annual salary was $108,000, records show.
In 24 years and 10 months, two formal complaints were filed against him. One was from 2005 when a parent complained about the arrest of their daughter. An investigation found that he acted properly within the scope of his duties.
The other was for using his department’s email system “forwarding negative information about Barack Obama” in 2008. He and several other officers received written reprimands for using their department emails for that purpose..
Police records show Jacius was a graduate of East Granby High School and attended Tunxis Community College.
As law enforcement officers, Melanson said everyone in his department is trained to recognize the signs that may lead to suicide or violence. But in all the years they knew Jacius, they said there were none.
The chief said they’ve all been wondering, “Were there signs? Was there something that we could have done?”
“And I can tell you to every person in the police department that the answer is: absolutely not.
“This is nothing that anybody could see coming from our side,” he said.
The investigation into the couple’s deaths was still ongoing by Connecticut State Police.
The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said autopsy results found that Thomas Jacius died by suicide, and Doreen Jacius died by homicide.
Doreen Jacius was laid to rest during private services for family and friends last week.
Her obituary said that her life was a busy and fulfilling one: She volunteered in her community. She was a devoted mother, sister and aunt. She spent time at the beach and in the mountains and served the local library as its director for years.
She was a graduate of East Granby High School who went on to earn her bachelor of science in business administration from the University of Connection, according to the obituary.
A GoFundMe has been set up for her daughters.
The Avon Police Department said they hope to support the Jacius family in any way they can and are hopeful for a thorough investigation from state police that leaves no stone unturned.
“We’re searching for answers,” said Melanson. “Although like I said, no matter what answer you give us, this is horrific. It’s absolutely horrific. And it will never make sense to us.”