By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Tracy LaCava said she and her husband would have done anything to help Kevin Paul, and that he’d do anything for them.
They said there was a time in his life when he had it all, including his own construction company and a family. But he encountered some personal problems, they said, and ended up divorced and eventually homeless.
The last time LaCava and husband Michael Piscatelli saw their friend was late Monday afternoon, when he stopped by their home on Arlington Street to say he was heading back to the apartment was living at with Susan Lovejoy. He said he was going to get his belongings and leave.
They said Paul asked them to hold onto his favorite blue jean jacket and his food stamp card so Lovejoy could not steal it, as she had in the past. He also asked them to hold onto some paperwork he intended to file for government assistance because he didn’t want Lovejoy to see it, they said.
Paul also left them his prescription medication and told them he didn’t want Lovejoy taking it from him, which she had in the past, they said.
“Kevin told me he’d decided to finally take a stand against her and that he was tired of her abuse,” LaCava said about Lovejoy.
Later that night, police responded to a report of a suicide at the apartment where Paul lived with Lovejoy. When officers arrived, they found Paul lying on the living room floor covered in blood. Paul, 51, was taken to Merrimack Valley Hospital and pronounced dead. Lovejoy told police Paul had stabbed himself, according to the police report, but investigators said his wound was not consistent with a self-inflicted one.
Lovejoy, 64, of 1 Water St., Apt. 306, was arraigned on a murder charge on Tuesday in Haverhill District Court, where she was represented by defense attorney John Apruzzese of the Massachusetts Committee for Public Council Services. The Eagle-Tribune contacted Apruzzese yesterday for comment on this story, but Apruzzese responded that he had nothing to say.
LaCava said she and her husband considered Paul their best friend and that they repeatedly urged him to get away from Lovejoy. So did other people he worked with at the Open Hand Pantry, they said.
“All of us at the pantry would circle around him and tell him not to go back to her,” LaCava said. “He told me that Sue had taken him in when he was homeless and that he was having a hard time leaving her.
“Kevin told us she was a crack addict and a heroin addict and that every time he got his EBT card refilled, she’d take it and use it to get cash,” LaCava said about Lovejoy.
To LaCava and her husband, Paul’s death ended the life of a man they considered part of their family.
“She killed our best friend and if she doesn’t go to jail for this, I’ll be heartbroken,” LaCava said about Lovejoy.
The fatal stabbing case began about 5 p.m. Monday, when police received a report of a disturbance at the apartment building at 1 Water St. There, they found Lovejoy unsteady on her feet — apparently heavily intoxicated, according to a police report. After talking to Lovejoy, 64, and her live-in boyfriend Paul, 51, officers determined they had been arguing, and that she had too much to drink and had also taken pills, the report said.
Lovejoy responded in a slurred speech that Paul was a womanizer and abuser, according to the police report. Paul told police that Lovejoy had been drinking since the day before and was “out of her mind” and needed to be hospitalized. Police had her transported by ambulance to Merrimack Valley Hospital for observation.
Several hours later, Lovejoy left the hospital and made her way back to the apartment, the report said. At 11:35 p.m., officers returned to the apartment for a reported suicide, according to the police report. Officers found Paul dead from a stab would.
“Kevin wasn’t an abuser and I don’t want them to make him out that way,” LaCava said of the police report quoting Lovejoy as saying Paul was an abusive man.
LaCava, a volunteer at the Catholic Charities Open Hand Pantry on Ashland Street, said she met Paul about three years ago when he became a volunteer at the pantry. He continued to work there until his death, she said.
“Kevin would show up with all sorts of injuries, including constant black eyes from being punched by Sue and bruises all over his legs,” LaCava said. “He told us that Sue would inflict wounds on herself, such as hitting herself with a bat. Then she would report it to police and say that Kevin did it to her.
“At first, Kevin would tell me he got hurt when he fell, or that he bumped into something,” she said. “Eventually he told me what was happening. He was like her crash test dummy and he’d tell us he got beat up by Sue for not bringing her the pills she wanted. Kevin had a black eye 99 percent of the time from being punched by her. It’s probably why he never liked to have his picture taken.
“Kevin told me that in the past he’d reported things about Sue to the police, but that they would not listen,” she said. “Kevin told us he’d end up in court and that he was even sent to jail because of her.”
LaCava said Paul would often confide in her and her husband about his desire to stop drinking alcohol.
“He was going to counseling weekly and for his appointments they would call us and we’d remind Kevin as we saw him every day,” LaCava said.
“We’d get Kevin cell phones ... but when Sue found them she’d take them so that Kevin couldn’t call anyone,” LaCava said. “Kevin was on prescription medication for depression and told us that Sue would take it from him so he’d always be depressed. He’d tell us that she would take things from him when he was asleep, including his EBT card.”
LaCava said Paul stayed with other friends of his and would often stay with her family, but never when he was drinking.
“Our children loved Kevin, and he’d often take care of them,” LaCava said. “They considered Kevin their uncle.”
When news of Paul’s death spread, LaCava said she and others at the food pantry were in a state of disbelief and shock.
“I saw more people crying on Tuesday than I’d ever seen in my life,” LaCava said. “People who work at the pantry, people who came to the drop in center, people who were outside sitting on the curb with their heads down, crying. Everyone loved Kevin.”
Piscatelli said he was trying to convince Paul to register for vocational classes and start a new career and that Paul seemed interested in a fresh start.
“He told me he had a successful construction company years ago and that he built his own house for his family,” Piscatelli said. “We were talking about his going back to school for something he could do, as he was in no condition to do framing any more. Being homeless took a toll on his body.”
LaCava said Paul has three daughters living in the area, and that he told her he had a son who died at a young age.
“He never got over it and ended up getting divorced,” LaCava said. “He recently told me that one of his daughters had a new baby earlier in the year and that he’d visited her, that he was getting closer to her and that he got to hold the baby’s hands,” she said. “Even his daughters were upset that he was with Sue. They didn’t want her around.”
LaCava said that when Paul left his jacket and other items with her and her husband on Monday afternoon, she never imagined it would be the last time they would see him.
“Kevin told me, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, kiddo,’ and I told him to be careful,’’ LaCava said.
LaCava and her husband said they would like to see Paul receive a dignified funeral, but have no way of knowing if that will happen because they are not in touch with any of his family members.
“Kevin told me he was a U.S. Marine veteran and a friend of ours is looking into whether the Marines can provide any services for him,” Piscatelli said.