Murder suspect says he was defending himself in fight

Feb. 3—The jury in the Garry Ramsey murder trial on Friday heard from the only witness with direct knowledge of the central facts about the confrontation in which Robert A. Callahan Jr. was stabbed to death — Ramsey himself.

He testified in Hartford Superior Court that he went to Callahan's apartment at 21 Carver Lane in a Manchester elderly housing complex on June 5, 2021, to ask a woman why she had "destroyed" the Manchester hotel room they had shared the night before.

The woman, Tiffany Menendez, was then a drug addict and escort in her early 30s and had personal relationships with both Callahan and Ramsey.

Ramsey said Callahan told him that Menendez wasn't there and opened his front door as if to invite Ramsey to check.

Ramsey, then 56, said he walked in, only to have Callahan, 68, kick him in his "bad leg." Ramsey said he went down on one knee, then saw Callahan coming at him with a knife in one hand.

Ramsey said he grabbed Callahan, they tussled, Callahan dropped the knife, they both went for it, and Ramsey got it.

"I picked it up, and he got jabbed," Ramsey said.

Ramsey is charged with murder and is claiming self-defense, which could lead to his acquittal. But prosecutor John F. Fahey said he will ask that the jury be given a third option, convicting Ramsey of first-degree manslaughter.

Earlier Friday, a former cellmate of Ramsey, Jerome Campbell, testified that, after initially saying the stabbing was an accident, Ramsey admitted "he had the knife," which he pulled out and used in the stabbing.

But Campbell also testified, on cross examination by defense lawyer Michael L. Chambers Jr., that Ramsey "said the guy was like overpowering him."

In cross examining Ramsey, prosecutor Samantha Magnani suggested that Callahan was a frail old man, weighing about 140 pounds, while Ramsey weighed 230.

Ramsey disputed those descriptions, saying of Callahan, "I just know he was a tall gentleman."

Ramsey acknowledged that he stabbed Callahan in the heart "but not intentionally."

Ramsey, who is Black, acknowledged that he didn't call 911 after the stabbing, saying, "Manchester police are very racist."

He described the knife as a "paring knife" and said he took it with him when he left, then threw it out of his car.

He acknowledged that he probably spoke on the phone to his son and the mother of his child minutes after the stabbing but said all he told them was that "I had got in a fight."

Ramsey said he had never had a confrontation with Callahan before.

Magnani cross examined Ramsey much more vigorously on his relationship with Menendez than on his claims about Callahan.

The prosecutor suggested that Ramsey "trafficked" Menendez, taking her to meetings with customers, waiting outside in the car, and taking half the money she made.

Ramsey vigorously disputed that characterization, saying, "She was a prostitute before I met her. I didn't need to traffic nobody."

He said he encouraged Menendez to get help for her drug problem but also acknowledged that he would get her drugs, which he didn't use himself.

"It's safer for her to be with me than on the street," he said.

He also said, "I'm her friend," contradicting Menendez's testimony that they weren't friends.

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