October 21, 2008

State House candidate apparently killed himself over money

Derek Jerome, a Republican candidate for the state legislature, is dead of an apparent suicide.
Friends found the 38-year-old Jerome dead in his antique Cadillac convertible Tuesday afternoon, the car still running, filling the inside of his garage on Redstone Hill Road with poisonous carbon monoxide.
"It's an absolute tragedy," said T.J. Barnes, who chairs the Bristol Republican Town Committee. "He had so much going for him."
Jerome leaves his wife, Teri Jerome, and two sons, his six-year-old namesake D.J. and six-month-old Brandon, as well as his mother, Nancy Jerome of Bristol.
"Economics were a major factor here," said Barnes, who said Jerome left a note. "It was one of those things where you see no way out."
Jerome was in an uphill race for the 79th state House seat against Democratic incumbent Rep. Frank Nicastro.
"How sad," Nicastro said Tuesday. "I just feel terrible for the family."
Jerome had been active in local Republican politics for years, working for the town committee and waging two previous unsuccessful campaigns for the same House seat.
Jerome believed so strongly in giving voters a choice that he would agree to run races against entrenched incumbents, Barnes said.
In May, Jerome said it was important for the public to get ideas from both sides of the aisle.
But Barnes said that this is a time to remember that there are a lot more important things going on in the world besides the politics that people argue about, "such as two little boys who are now without a father." 
Barnes said Jerome, who ran a title search company and other businesses, "tried to live the American dream," and was in the process of starting a new company.
"He was an entrepreneur," said Barnes, adding that is it "not an easy time to be starting a new business."
Barnes and fellow Republican Henry Raymond said they were searching for Jerome on Tuesday.
"We went all over the place, looking for him," said Barnes. They were back at Jerome's place by 3:30 p.m.
"We were there when they pulled him out," said Barnes, who said he would "never think anybody would come to this."
Jerome's death left his friends struggling to understand the loss of a smart, funny man.
"This whole act is out of character for Derek," said Barnes.
"I lost a good friend today," Raymond said. "My heart goes out to the whole family."
Karen Pio, a friend of Derek and Teri Jerome, said he was a man "brimming with self-confidence."
He cared deeply for his family, Pio said, and was "a devoted father and husband."
Jerome loved animals and had recently adopted another dog, said Pio, and was always willing to lend a hand.
"He was a really generous guy," said Pio, and "a good friend."
Pio who relied on Jerome's help with the Greater Bristol Property Owners Association, where Jerome had been a former vice president.
"He picked up things so quickly," said Pio. "He was a parliamentarian."
Barnes said Jerome was "very detail-oriented" and helped write the bylaws for the town committee – a job no one likes to do.
Nicastro said he spent about an hour talking with Jerome last August at an event in Forestville.
There was a dunking tank, said Nicastro, and Jerome's son, D.J., was throwing balls with good aim, much to his father's delight.
While D.J. was busy dunking the people in the tank, Nicastro and Jerome spoke about keeping the campaign clean.
Nicastro said he walked away from the meeting thinking well of Jerome.
"He was a perfect gentleman to me," said Nicastro.
Barnes said the emergency medical responders, police and firefighters who came to Jerome's house were "very impressive" in how they handled a difficult situation.
"They were a class act," said Barnes. -- Co-written with reporter Jackie Majerus

A little addendum: We couldn't justify the space it would take to explain in the story for the paper about why they couldn't find Jerome in "his garage," but let me do it here.
Jerome was in the running car in a garage in his former house, across the street from his new house. He owned both of them. So while it might have been hard to miss a running Cadillac in the garage of the home where his family lived, it was easier not to notice it across the street.
In the end, someone did hear the engine running, and they soon found where Jerome had been since the middle of the night sometime.
It's not clear how long the engine was running, but we were told it had been on for many hours and that it was surprising the car didn't catch fire.
Because the timeline is unclear, we don't know whether Jerome died late Monday or sometime Tuesday.
I should add that I couldn't find the police shift commander tonight to get an official version of events.

Wednesday morning update - Police Lt. Edward Spyros told the Associated Press that Jerome's death was a likely suicide. No surprise there, but some people, including some of my editors over the years, prefer to hear it from the police instead of eyewitnesses,
Also, I've been asked whether there is a fund of some sort to help Jerome's family. At this point, I haven't heard of one, but I'd be stunned if one isn't formed. I'll post information about it as soon as I hear any details. I know there are many kind-hearted people out there who would like to help Jerome's wife and boys. I wish Jerome had just asked for that help instead of taking the course he did because I think he might have been surprised at how generous this community can be. I've seen it directly on a number of occasions.

Wednesday night update:
For details from the police report, check out Adam Benson's story in the Press.
And you can find the details on a fund created to help Jerome's children here.
Here's his obituary:

Derek R. Jerome Sr.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Steve Collins said...

Comments must be respectful or they won't be approved.

Anonymous said...

It's so terrible that the financial state of this country has claimed more than just people's savings and 401K plans. Now it is claiming lives.

I pray for this family and that some day they will find some peace.

Mer (Lulu's Mommy) said...

Jerome's death left his friends struggling to understand the loss of a smart, funny man.

That sums it up.

Tim Gamache said...

Truly sad.I was just stunned by the news.I will pray for his family.

Anonymous said...

Wow this is very unfortunate and sad. I take care of an elderly guy further up the road on Redstone Hill Rd and drive by Mr. Jerome's house daily. Today I drove by around 8:30AM and 2:45PM on my way to and from work. It's sad knowing he was probably siting inside his car at those times :( Our prayers and thoughts are with his family. I'm sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

Those poor children! I don't understand how a man could do this to his family, especially those two little boys.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that this was accidental? or did he leave a suicide note?

Steve Collins said...

He left a note, contents unknown. But as far as I know there has been no official ruling on the cause of death so it remains possible that it wasn't what it seems.

Anonymous said...

Derek was a class act who was sometimes too much of a perfectionist. THat is not always a bad thing, but this should teach us all a lesson that thier are much more important things to life.

Since Steve started this blog it has been an opportunity to belittle people, berate people and at times filled with inneuendo and snide comments.

Steve has done his best to weed out the trash and not post it but things do get by.

WHat has politics become not only in Bristol or Connecticut but nationwide? Is the power a particular party has more important than decency? Is winning so much more important than human decency?

ASk yourselves as joe average citizen, with all the scrunity the McCains and the Obama's have had to endure as well as some of our local folks, it is worth it? Would you put your name on the ballot and suject your spouse, kids, family and friends to the rigors of running for office or God forbid serving?

I'm just as guilty for not stepping up sooner.

This incedent, while a tragety for his wife, kids family and friends really puts this in perspective and hopefully makes me a better person.

Derek Jerome stepped up to the plate and ran for office. He did something that many people don't do and that's try to make a difference.

AS a friend of Derek's I know that He did love this wife and boys and its too bad that when people feel there is no way out they cannot see light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortuneatly, Derek made a choice today, and it was the wrong choice for those who have to keep on living. Living without him.

Today, is one of the most tragic days in Bristol politics in years.

A life is gone way too earlier. T.J. Barnes said it correctly when he said that Derek had a lot to offer.

THe question that will never be answered is why? Even with a note, I wish I had one more conversation with him and I would use that time to tell him that with life there is always hope When there is no life than there is no hope.

How do we judge failure? Well Derek did leave this place a better place b/c he left it with two very beautiful kids. His life will live on through them.

My hope in this tragic event is that all Bristol residents will use the next two weeks to take a hard look at the people who are running for office and than vote for the person who you believe would make a better officeholder. The person not the party. And than take the time on election day to say to the other candidate that they are not voting for thanks for running and giving me a choice.

IN the end, I hope Derek's life will drive more people into the political arena, and do just what Derek wanted to do this year and give people a choice.

Derek, I am mad as hell at you right now to say anything constructive.

All I hope is that somehow through all this you found peace. If you did, pass some of it on to the people you left behind.

AS mad as I am though, I sincerely hope that God has blessed you.

Good Bye, my friend.

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible thing especially for the children.

But I must question allowing comments such as the one at October 21, 2008 10:20 PM, which sounds more like a "blame Bush" comment. I don't really expect Collins to have the brains or the class to weed things like that out. I had eight great grandparents and four grandparents live through the great depression. None killed themselves.
Obviously there were other troubling circumstances inside Derek that for some reason caused him to do this to himself. If one (such as Collins) wants convesation to remain non-partisan and respectful I would suggest not allowing comments that blame the economy, etc. to be posted. I know of the naivity of some people referencing "economics" (are they macro, micro, Keynesian or what?) and that they don't know any better (the better word would have perhaps been "financial"...as in personal). But one can always be corrected on proper etiquette.

RIP Derek

cseguin said...

I can't possibly understand what his wife, children, other family and friends are going through right now. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all others close to him.

Anonymous said...

8:32 - I am the 10:20 commenter and it was not a "blame Bush" comment. It was a realization of the current state of the country and it's not Bush's fault - it's not any one person's fault. It's been a downward spiral for years that we didn't catch in time.

Whenever there is an economic crisis in history, including the current and during the depression era, there are plenty of suicides. Much of which are not publicized.

My point was that desperation is a very real feeling for people that don't see a light at the end of the tunnel. I have felt it in the past as I'm sure many others have. It's the feeling that you will never financially catch up - or that you will lose all that you have worked so hard for.

Oh but by the Grace of God, this article could have been about me and my family.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

My thoughts and prayers are with Derek and his family.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I know it is very hard to understand why someone would commit suicide but they are in incredible pain (mentally) and they cannot see a way out. They also are unable, in many instances, to see any value in getting help. Anyone affected by suicide needs to forgive the person who took their own life. When you hold on to the anger you only cause yourself additional pain & turmoil.

My sympathies to all that have been affected by Derek's loss. He is a kind and loving man. Please forgive him and let Derek and let yourself move on in peace.