Published May 27. 2009 4:00AM
Three days after Leslie Buck's suspicious death in Mystic in May 2002, her husband went to the Stonington police department and talked willingly about some of the most personal aspects of his life.
Charlie Buck volunteered information about his childhood, his relationship with his wife and his longtime friendship with Russell Kirby, a handyman who had allegedly kidnapped Mrs. Buck - and been arrested - two days before she died.
Buck even told Detective Cody Floyd and Inspector Rhett D'Amico about the various accounts he had in area banks. Buck had already provided the police a written outline, in what Floyd called "amazing" detail, about his activities on the day of his wife's death. But when the questioning turned to Buck's interest in a younger woman and the gifts he had lavished on her, the electrical contractor stopped the interview.
Floyd, the case officer in the Leslie Buck death case, testified Tuesday in the continuation of a probable-cause hearing in New London Superior Court. Charles F. Buck, 62, is charged with murdering his wife on May 4, 2002, by clubbing her with a thick length of electrical wire, causing her to fall down a set of stairs and suffer a fatal head injury.
Floyd said that as the investigation ensued, he learned of Buck's relationship with Carol Perez, a bartender at the Drawbridge Inne in downtown Mystic, and knew of several gifts Buck had bestowed on her. Buck tried to minimize his gift-giving. He said he had loaned $1,000 to Perez, but Floyd knew it was more. "It was actually $6,800," Floyd testified. "I just confronted him with the fact that he was lying. He admitted to it."
As Floyd pressed on, Buck said he did not want to talk anymore and was allowed to leave.
Since an autopsy of Mrs. Buck was inconclusive as to the manner of her death, the state's case appears to rely on the theory that Buck's obsession with Perez motivated him to murder his wife Leslie, a popular second-grade teacher. As prosecutors attempt to convince Judge Susan B. Handy that they have enough evidence, testimony has often focused on the more than a quarter of a million dollars that Buck spent on Perez.
Jenna Jones, the former office manager for the Zales jewelry store in the Crystal Mall, testified Tuesday that Buck purchased a 2.5 carat ring at the end of July 2002. He first tried to pay for the $15,000 ring with a check from a joint account he had shared with his late wife.
"I asked him, since it was a joint account, if it (the ring) was an anniversary present," Jones testified. "He said no, it's an engagement ring."
Buck told her his fiancé deserved the ring for dealing with him, Jones said. Processing the check would have held up the transaction, so Buck came the next day in with a cashier's check for the exact amount of the purchase, Jones testified.
Sarah Marcinek, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker, testified that she showed two houses to Buck and Perez on Aug. 2, 2002. They asked to see homes in the $200,000 to $230,000 price range, she said. Perez liked a house in Westbrook, and the couple made an offer that day, according to Marcinek. They closed on the house on Aug. 13, with a bank check from Buck for $235,000, plus $1,000 cash from him for additional fees. Buck mentioned to the real estate agent that he and Perez had been engaged for about a week.
"Did he say when they were getting married?" asked prosecutor Paul J. Narducci.
"He didn't know," Marcinek responded.
The marriage never occurred, and Perez, who is now known as Carol Stephens, has since sold both the ring and the house, according to her testimony two weeks ago. She said she pawned the ring for about "$5,000 or $7,000."
Perez sold the raised ranch at 30 Roberts Road in Westbrook for $290,000 in June 2004, according to town records. Perez married another man in 2006, but is seeking a divorce.
The defense cross-examination of Floyd will continue Thursday, and the state expects to call it's last witness, an expert on blood spatters, before resting its case. Attorneys for both sides will present arguments before the hearing concludes
Judge Handy is not expected to rule from the bench, according to the attorneys, but is more likely to issue a written decision at a later date.