December 13, 1987
Waterbury, Connecticut
Robert Breton kills his ex-wife JoAnn and their son Robert Jr. (15)

Robert Sr. and JoAnn had recently divorced due to Robert’s abusive behavior. In 1986, one of JoAnn’s coworkers witnessed an exchange between the two wherein Robert threw a birthday card and money at JoAnn to give to their son, and threatened JoAnn by saying “I’ll kill you.” The same year, JoAnn found her apartment ransacked and called police. An officer responding to the call found Robert in the attic armed with a shotgun. On other occasions, Robert broke JoAnn’s furniture and shot a hole in the ceiling of her bedroom. JoAnn obtained a restraining order against Robert on June 2, 1986. The couple finalized their divorce on January 20, 1987.

In the early morning of December 13, Robert broke into JoAnn’s home and woke her while holding a knife. JoAnn screamed, alerting Robert Jr., who came to his mother’s aid. JoAnn was punched before the knife was stabbed into her neck, severing her carotid artery and causing her to exsanguinate. Robert Sr. then slashed at his son, giving him cuts to his arms, hands, and fingers before similarly stabbing him in the carotid artery and causing him to bleed out. JoAnn was later found facedown and with her legs spread open in her bedroom while Robert Jr. was found slumped against a wall at the bottom of the home’s staircase.

Around 4:30 a.m. on December 13, a neighbor heard a scream from JoAnn’s apartment and witnessed Robert walking to his truck. The neighbor did not report the incident but the testimony was used in court.

On December 14, Robert asked JoAnn’s apartment manager to open the door after repeated knocks and calls went unanswered. He also noted blood on the doorknob. Police were summoned after the bodies of JoAnn and Robert Jr. were found. Based on the prior violence aimed at JoAnn, as well as the statement by the witness, Robert was quickly arrested and charged with the murders.

It was revealed during the course of investigation this was not Robert’s first arrest for murder. In 1966, the then-19-year-old Robert killed his father Roland Breton with multiple stab wounds to the chest. He was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder as the jury could not determine if the killing was in self-defense.

The documented history of violence by Robert helped secure a conviction and the jury recommended the death penalty. However, the sentence was overturned in 1995 due to ambiguity in the jury instructions during the sentencing phase. Robert was instead given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Hartford Courant. October 4, 1989

Connecticut inmate search. Inmate number 163703.
Kauffman, Matthew. “Breton death penalty voided.” The Hartford Courant. August 22, 1995
Tuohy, Lynne. “Jury rules murderer should die.” Hartford Courant. October 4, 1989
Petersen, Deborah. “Jury phase of trial may be longest part.” Hartford Courant. January 30, 1989
James, Sandra. “Slaying suspect had violent family past.” Hartford Courant. December 16, 1987
“Knife Wounds Kill Waterbury Man, 46.” The Bridgeport Post. December 3, 1966

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