New findings surface in decades-old Norwich death - WFSB 3 Connecticut

New findings surface in decades-old Norwich death

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A decades-old cold case is back in headlines and surrounds the mysterious deaths of an artist and his son-in-law. (WFSB) A decades-old cold case is back in headlines and surrounds the mysterious deaths of an artist and his son-in-law. (WFSB)
NORWICH, CT (WFSB) -

A decades-old cold case is back in headlines and surrounds the mysterious deaths of an artist and his son-in-law.

The recent autopsies of a legendary Connecticut artist and his son-in-law does not entirely clear up the mystery surrounding their deaths.

African-American painter Ellis Ruley's body was discovered in the street near his Norwich home back in 1959.

At the time, a coroner ruled he died of a heart issue, however a world-famous forensic pathologist from New York is now saying Ruley actually died of exposure after falling.

Examiner Dr. Michael Baden said it is unclear why Ruley fell, so he can’t say if his death was a murder or an accident.

However, after a recent autopsy, Baden said Ruley's son-in-law Douglas Harris was murdered.

Harris's body was found in a well in 1948 on Ruley's property and his death was initially ruled a drowning.

“Adult men don’t drown in wells,” Baden said.

He added that someone may have broken Harris’s neck before throwing him in the well.

Glenn Palmedo-Smith wrote a book about Ruley and believes the autopsy, coupled with witnesses seeing Ruley’s empty wallet and blood near his body, suggest he fell during or after a robbery.

“I believe that Ellis Ruley's death, if it's anything, it might be manslaughter,” Palmedo-Smith said.

Ruley’s great-granddaughter Diane Laiscell said she believes both Ruley and Harris were murdered after being targeted as the only black family in Norwich at the time.

Still, these new findings help her find closure.

“I know it took a lot people to do this hard work for me,” Laiscell said. “To make this dream come true. To help me keep this promise to my great-grandfather." 

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