Selwyn Cartie waited five years for the day when police finally made an arrest in his son’s killing.
Five years of calling prosecutors monthly, sometimes weekly, hoping for news. Five years of crying. Drinking. Trying to cope with the hole the killing left in his Connecticut family. Failing.
“Every time we tried to talk about it, everyone started crying,” Cartie says. “I’d be dying inside.”
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Julian Cartie, a 25-year-old National Guardsman and former high school football star, was shot on the street in downtown Springfield around 2 a.m. on Feb. 22, 2009. It was a puzzling case, with no obvious motive. The younger Cartie was a well-liked soldier who was about to ship off to Afghanistan.
Now the long-unsolved case is potentially on the verge of a resolution. After his arrest in 2014, Michael Rodriguez of Holyoke is scheduled to go to trial this fall.
His arrest made the Cartie case an exception to a grim rule. Crimes that go unsolved for five years usually stay unsolved. Cartie’s death seemed fated for the list of 3,000 unsolved murders recorded in Massachusetts since 1965, a number compiled from FBI data by the Murder Accountability Project. Nationally, the rate of “uncleared” murders has climbed steadily since the 1960s, even as the overall level of violent crime has fallen.
Today, less than two-thirds of murders are solved — a lack of closure that adds to affected families’ misery.
To buck that trend for the Cartie family, Springfield police had to unravel what they now believe was a chance encounter that turned deadly. Julian Cartie had never met Rodriguez before the night of the shooting, according to Jessica Pizzano, a victim advocate who worked with the Cartie family. Rodriguez allegedly gunned Cartie down after he danced with Rodriguez’s girlfriend at a nightclub.
A defense lawyer representing Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment.
The loss of his oldest son, and the agonizing wait for justice, took a heavy toll on Selwyn Cartie. He says he’s still climbing out of the abyss the crime left in his life. He has plenty of questions for Rodriguez.
“I wanted to ask, why did you have to do that? You killed my son for the girl? It wasn’t necessary, it was a cold-blooded act.”
Julian Cartie’s 32nd birthday would have been Sept. 24. His father plans to hold a celebration for hundreds of friends.
“I celebrate every year, and I will until I die,” he says. “That’s everything I have.”
Produced by Elaina Natario, Laura Colarusso, Heather Hopp-Bruce, Alex Kingsbury, Jeremy D. Goodwin, and Mary Creane
Lead image by Alejo Porras