Family and close friends gathered last week at the Berrincha home on Westphal Street for a birthday. There was a cake and candles.
“We sang happy birthday to Suzete just like we would on any other birthday,” Amanda Pimentel said. “We spent the day together.”
On Tuesday, family and friends assembled again at Hartford Superior Court. Most were wearing purple ribbons with an initial “S.” And some held framed photos of 22-year-old Suzete Berrincha as her alleged killer made his second appearance in court.
David Grant, 25, a former boyfriend, is accused of Nov. 3 in the basement of her home. The preliminary hearing on a single count of murder was continued until Jan. 18 and public defender J.L. Sawicki raised an issue regarding Grant’s fingerprints.
Based on information from the State Police Bureau of Identification, Sawicki indicated that fingerprints taken by needed to be taken again. The original fingerprints were described as "unreadable."
Grant, who is jailed on $2 million bond, was re-fingerprinted and taken back to MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield.
Berrincha’s friends, many from , UConn and from – the restaurant where she worked – exchanged emotional embraces outside the courtroom.
The women wore white shirts and purple ribbons to signify solidarity against domestic violence, said Pimentel, Berrincha’s longtime friend.
“I know Suzete wouldn’t want us to be angry and have to live with that,” said Pimentel, 22. “I just want justice to be served for her and for her family. They are suffering.”
For Berrincha’s birthday, Dec. 1, her closest friends – including Cristina Garcia, 22, and Jubetsy Minaya, 23, from Hall; Eveel Fermin, 24, from UConn; and Rachel Desault, 21, and Mary-Beth Tuite, 23, from Umi – honored Suzete with tattoos.
Pimentel displayed a blue heart on her right wrist.
“Everyone got [a tattoo] that is unique and special to them,” Pimentel said. “We had a very tight circle. [Suzete] knew a lot of people. Everyone that knew her loved her.”
Grant, who was living with his family at 173 Simsbury Road, was described by police as Berrincha’s on-and-off boyfriend for about eight years. His father told detectives his son appeared to be infatuated with Berrincha.
Pimentel said she knew Grant “for as long as Suzete did.”
“I can’t put two and two together,” Pimentel said. “I don’t even think David was ever suspended from school. … I can’t picture David hurting Suzete, still. It does not make sense. And I don’t think it ever will make sense.”
According to investigators, Grant apparently surprised Berrincha when he appeared at 60 Westphal St. about 4 p.m. He told police he was there to retrieve a debit card. A neighbor allegedly saw a struggle and heard Berrincha scream for her to call 911.
A surgeon who treated Berrincha at Hartford Hospital indicated that Berrincha sustained at least 12 stab wounds, including four in the chest.
Grant was captured about two hours after the stabbing, hiding in a garage on nearby Caya Avenue, police said.
A man who has known Berrincha’s parents, Jose, 65, and Maria, 58, for 10 years said the family is “coping. They’re trying to move forward. Suzete’s friends have been very supportive, helping every day. Their mother is holding everything together.”
Berrincha, a captain of the Hall cheerleading squad, graduated from UConn in 2010 with a B.A. degree in human development and family studies. She was planning to earn a master’s degree.
“She had her books and everything. She was preparing to take her [graduate school] tests,” Pimentel said. “Ultimately she wanted to be a high school guidance counselor.”
Berrincha’s friends said they plan to attend court until the outcome. On Nov. 10 – the night before Berrincha’s memorial service at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Hartford – the friends held a candlelight vigil in Blue Back Square.
“For all of us it’s very important that [people] get the message” about domestic violence, Pimentel said. “The entire West Hartford community has responded – emails, phone calls, Facebook messages from people that I don’t even know – to show support. We want to make sure her life is celebrated. She has affected and touched the lives of so many people. I do not want that to be forgotten – ever.”