Fairfield Prep student’s death shocks Shelton neighborhood

Photo of Ethan Fry

SHELTON — Neighbors said it was not unusual for people to gather at the Laurel Glen Drive property where 17-year-old Fairfield Prep student James McGrath was stabbed to death and three other people were injured late Saturday.

But they said the family living there mostly kept to themselves — and nothing they saw ever approached what greeted them just before midnight, when police and paramedics were called there for a reported fight and stabbing.

Kathleen Davis, whose two sons knew McGrath from Prep but were not classmates, said she walks by the property with her husband often. They were “stunned” when she heard of the incident, she said.

“Who wouldn’t be upset to that hear something like that happens anywhere? Then you hear it happens two minutes from your home where you walk by every day,” Davis said.

Nobody answered the door at the home near the intersection of Laurel Glen Drive and Adams Drive, where several vehicles were parked in the driveway Monday afternoon.

Shelton police said that officers responding to the initial call about 11:55 p.m. Saturday found “numerous teenagers outside of a residence,” including four victims who had been stabbed.

The four victims were hospitalized, and McGrath was later pronounced dead, police said.

Christina Louis-Fin, who lives across the street, said she was returning home at the time and initially thought something had happened at her house because of all the emergency vehicles parked in front.

“We were shocked when we came down the road,” Louis-Fin said Monday while standing in front of her home, describing flashing lights from police cars and ambulances.

“I ran over to see if there’s anything I could do to help,” Louis-Fin said. “I saw teenagers crying. It just broke my heart.”

Peter McCarthy also lives across from the property. He said his mother, a school nurse who once worked at a hospital, heard the commotion and walked outside.

“She walked over and gave the kid CPR before he passed away,” McCarthy said.

It’s unclear what specifically led to the stabbing that killed McGrath and injured the three other teens, whose identities have not been released.

Police had not made any arrests as of Monday evening.

Residents of the quiet neighborhood near the Trumbull line said they hadn’t seen police at the property where McGrath died before.

John Misurale, a next-door neighbor, said the family living at the property kept mostly to themselves. He said the occasional get-togethers there could get “a little loud,” but not enough to be a bother.

“I was shocked,” he said of hearing about the stabbing. “I was at home but I didn’t know what had happened.”

Davis said one of her sons alerted her to news of the stabbing before she and her husband found out more specifics later Sunday while shopping and exchanging texts with other parents.

“My husband looked at me and said ‘I feel sick,’” Davis said. “He said ‘I think it’s Jimmy.’”

She said the teenager’s death would be felt far and wide.

“For the whole community, it’s going to be a huge loss,” she said.

In a prepared statement Fairfield Prep said the school community “mourns the loss of junior Jimmy McGrath and we extend our deepest sympathies to the McGrath family.

“Jimmy was a beloved student and athlete on the football and lacrosse teams, and will forever be a member of the Prep Brotherhood,” the school’s statement said.

More than 1,000 people gathered at a private prayer service on campus Sunday, the school said, followed by a service Monday where President Christian Cashman addressed students, faculty, and staff.

“May God bless Jimmy McGrath, Class of 2023, forever a man for others, forever a son of Fairfield Prep,” Cashman said.

Students and faculty have the support of the school’s leadership team, Jesuit priests, campus ministers and counselors from Prep and Fairfield University, the statement said. 

In a prepared statement, Bridgeport Diocese Bishop Frank Caggiano offered condolences to McGrath’s family “at this most troubling and distressing moment.”

The bishop asked for prayers “for all those affected by this sudden loss and unthinkable tragedy.”

“The incident is under investigation, and there is much we do not know about the circumstances,” he said. “However, we do know it has left a deep and lasting trauma for the families and for the Fairfield Prep students and many others who must deal with their grief and shock in the coming day.”

A gofundme page to support the family showed McGrath wearing a #7 Prep lacrosse jersey and posing with his stick. It had raised $36,182 as of Monday afternoon.

“We love you forever Jimmy,” it said.

Anyone with any information, including videos of the incident, can call the Shelton Police Detective Bureau at 203-924-1544.

Staff writers Brian Gioiele and Peter Yankowski contributed to this story.