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Observations October 2010
Column By John Murray
Marriages crash, couples fight, and the divorce rate in America remains at staggering heights. When the fog lifts there is usually an aggrieved ex-spouse harboring thoughts of vengeance. This is not news.
But the marriage of Ron and Cheryl Tompkins is not your typical love story gone south. It involves a cop and a federal lawsuit alleging an abuse of power by a prominent state prosecutor.
Ron and Cheryl were married for 18 years, had two children, and lived in a beautiful house in Wolcott. It’s impossible to determine the exact date the marriage began to unravel, but April 2008 was clearly significant - it was the time Cheryl asked Ron to move out of their house. She told him she wanted a divorce.
Ron, a Waterbury police officer, was stunned. He wasn’t going to pack his bags and leave. He wanted to talk about it, seek professional counselling, and see if they could save their marriage. But day after day, Ron said, Cheryl kept asking him to leave.
Stubborn, and with no where to go, Ron refused.
On May 22, 2008, Ron Tompkins said he woke up to find the Wolcott police knocking at his front door. Cheryl had reported that during an argument Ron had threatened her with a gun, a charge any police department in America would take very seriously. Ron said his wife fabricated the charges, but he was arrested for disorderly conduct and threatening. While in the Wolcott PD Tompkins said he clashed with the deputy police chief, Don Therkildsen, who slapped him with a $50,000 bond.
And just like that Ron was out of the house.
In addition to calling the Wolcott police, Cheryl sought and received a restraining order against Ron. He could have no contact with her. But after posting bond the first thing Ron did was call Cheryl’s workplace to make arrangements to pick up some clothes.
Bad move. And within hours Ron was re-arrested for violating the restraining order. Devastated, Ron’s world began to collapse.
With two criminal charges against him, Tompkins was brought into Waterbury Superior Court. While waiting for his hearing to begin Tompkins said he was approached by a fellow Waterbury policemen who was serving as a court liaison officer. According to Tompkins the officer had a message for him from state prosecutor Dave Gulick. Tompkins said he was told that he didn’t need a lawyer and that Gulick, who he coached little league baseball with in Wolcott, would see that the charges were dismissed.
It was the first good news Ron Tompkins had heard in months.
Weeks later Tompkins found out that the prosecutor assigned to the case was Don Therkildsen Jr., the son of the Wolcott deputy police chief he had clashed with during his arrest. Alarmed at the connection, Tompkins tried to use his clout as a Waterbury police officer to get a different prosecutor assigned to the case.
Tompkins also hired Atty. Pat Cooney to represent him in the criminal case against him. Then, according to Tompkins, he received a remarkable cell phone call from state prosecutor Dave Gulick. Tompkins said that Gulick advised him that everything would be okay and there was no need to hire a defense lawyer. Tompkins said Gulick assured him that the case would be handled by Don Therkildsen Jr., who was Gulick’s best friend.
“Dave Gulick told me not to hire a lawyer and that Therkildsen would get the charges against me dismissed,” Tompkins said. “I was thrilled and offered to buy him a beer.”
But when Tompkins went to court his lawyer, Pat Cooney, was privately advised by Therkildsen Jr. to not take the case. Cooney has stated that Therkildsen Jr. - a friend from law school - told him “not stick his neck out for Tompkins, he is a liar.”
And in court Therkildsen was anything but helpful. To Tompkins shock. the prosecution, with Dave Gulick sitting at the table, aggressively went after him.
“They were trying to put me in jail,” Tompkins said. “I had been set up by Dave Gulick, but I didn’t know why.”
Within months, Tompkins would learn the shocking truth. Dave Gulick had been having an affair with Cheryl Tompkins. There is written documentation from a therapist’s notes that the romance had been going on for more than a year before Ron Tompkins was arrested.
Suddenly, the nightmare Ron Tompkins had been living made perfect sense to him. Dave Gulick and the Therkildsens were best friends, the “Three Amigoes”, and Tompkins believes they conspired with Cheryl to destroy him. There are two people, including the wife of Cheryl’s brother, who categorically state Cheryl Tompkins bragged about making up the criminal charges against Ron in order to get him out of the house.
Cheryl could place the call to Wolcott PD, Therkildsen Sr. could play hardball, and then Therkildsen Jr. could package Ron Tompkins off to prison.
“They wanted me out of the way so Dave and Cheryl could be together,” Tompkins said. “It was evil.”
Tompkins first approached the Observer with his story in the autumn of 2009. After several interviews our investigation branched out to include Wolcott Police Chief Neil O’Leary, State’s Attorney John Connelly, Waterbury Police Chief Mike Gugliotti, the court liaison officer, Ron Tompkin’s divorce attorney, Chris Reeves, and an hour-long phone interview with Dave Gulick.
When Gulick was contacted he categorically denied the allegations made by Ron Tompkins. While stating he was in a relationship with Cheryl Tompkins, he said the romance hadn’t started until months after Ron Tompkins had been arrested. Gulick denied ever calling Ron Tompkins, and said Tompkins was angry about the divorce and was trying to cost Gulick his job.
“Ron Tompkins will make up anything to hurt me,” Gulick told the Observer last autumn. “His stories are complete nonsense. I did nothing wrong.”
Despite the strong allegations made by Ron Tompkins, it was impossible to prove his version of the story. Did Dave Gulick conspire with the Therkildsen’s to interfere with Ron Tompkin’s marriage? Did Dave Gulick make direct and illegal contact with Ron Tompkins via a cell phone advising him not to hire a lawyer, and stating that Therkildsen Jr. would get the charges dropped? Why was Dave Gulick in a courtroom he wasn’t assigned to on both days Ron Tompkins went to court?
What it boiled down to was a “he said- he said” case, and the Observer was unable to obtain Gulick’s complete cell phone records to verify Tompkins version of events. Tompkins was able to obtain a partial record of Gulick’s cell phone records as part of a contentious custody battle, and it showed that Gulick had multiple conversations with Cheryl on the days Ron was in court.
Tompkin’s lawyer filed a grievance last year against Dave Gulick with the State Bar Association, and a state investigation was launched into the sordid mess. Tompkins said he was told that the state would obtain Gulick’s complete cell phone records and do a thorough investigation. At that point the Observer decided to hold the story until the state completed its investigation.
But, according to Tompkins, a new twist emerged while he talked with state investigators. Tompkins said the state was more interested in what he might divulge about John Connelly and his relationship with the Waterbury Police Department.
“I had nothing to tell them and they lost interest in doing a thorough investigation,” Tompkins said. “They never talked with anybody and never got the cell phone records. It was a joke.”
Unbroken, Ron Tompkins filed a federal lawsuit against Dave Gulick in August 2010. In the lawsuit Tompkins lays out all the allegations he has made against Gulick and charges him “with using his power as a public official to interfere” with the Tompkins marriage. Gulick is charged with “conduct that is shocking to the conscience” and depriving Ron Tompkins of the due process of law.
Ironically, Tompkins lawyer is John Williams, the same high powered New Haven attorney who is suing The Waterbury Observer, and Janice Smolinski, for articles we published surrounding the bizarre disappearance of Billy Smolinski six years ago.
So where and when does the Tompkins- Gulick saga end?
It could be bogged down in the legal system for years.
But if we freeze frame the story right now, here is an update:
The FBI is currently investigating the culture of business inside the Waterbury Superior Court. John Connelly and defense attorney Marty Minella have both been mentioned as possible targets of a grand jury probe. Is there a connection to this story? It’s too soon to know.
Ron and Cheryl are now divorced, and Ron has suffered extreme bouts of depression and was hospitalized 18 months ago. At the moment he appears to be doing much better. Time, and a federal lawsuit, have helped his healing.
And Dave Gulick? He currently lives with Cheryl and the two children in Ron’s old home in Wolcott.