It took 15 years for Phil DiBecelli to stop hating the man who shot and killed his son.
DiBecelli, of Huntington, said he will never forget the day that David M. Alechnowicz shot his son, Scott DiBecelli, in a hunting accident in Paugussett State Forest in Newtown. But he has, over time and through his faith, learned to forgive the Oxford man for taking the life of his son, who was 28 years old at the time.
"You don't want to see your children go before you," he said. "It's not meant to be that way."
The Hartford Courant reported that Alechnowicz was charged with criminally negligent homicide and first-degree reckless endangerment in relation to the Nov. 2, 1996, shooting at the 1950-acre state forest. He was ultimately granted accelerated rehabilitation, according to DiBecelli.
"God will deal with him in a different way," he said.
A retired electrician, DiBecelli works as the parking lot guard at the Abriola Parkview Funeral Home in Trumbull, which hosted the wake Thursday evening for Mary Sherlach, the Sandy Hook School psychiatrist who was among the 26 victims of the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown.
DiBecelli estimated that about 2,000 people came to pay their respects. Folks had already formed a line around the outside of the funeral home when he arrived at 3:15 p.m. — 45 minutes before the wake started — and the line still stretched outside at 7 p.m. as temperatures dipped into the mid-30s. It was among the highest turnouts DiBecelli has seen since he started working at Abriola in 1999.
Just then a woman exited the funeral home and thanked DiBecelli as she walked past to her car. "All of these people are so nice," he said. "You meet so many nice people."
His colleague, Andrew Ritz of Bridgeport, agreed. Ritz' cousin lives in Sandy Hook and she has a son who attends Sandy Hook School. "She was shook up," he said.
DiBecelli, who has three remaining children and a great-grandchild from his late son, turned his attention to Sherlach and the 25 other victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.
"This destroyed a lot of people's lives," he said. "The hurt is always going to be there. You never forget."
But, he added, "You got to be strong. You can't give up. You can't hold a grudge."