The alleged Fern Street rapist is in a cell at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. The suspect in a West Ridge Drive home invasion has the same address. And convicted murderer is in a Mexico City prison, awaiting extradition.
Dane Semper helped put them there.
“He’s very perseverant,” Capt. Joseph LaSata said. “He will stay with a case until there’s nowhere else to go or until he makes an arrest.”
Semper, a 22-year West Hartford police veteran, will be honored as Police Officer of the Year by the West Hartford Exchange Club tonight at the American Legion Post 96 on Raymond Road.
Jarrad Smith will also be honored at the Exchange Club’s Public Safety Night for his role in a of a man whose left arm became trapped in a furnace last summer.
Semper was made a detective in March 2000. His career includes multiple commendations and unit citations. In 2009 he received a state police commendation for his role in resolving a standoff with an armed and suicidal man on I-84 in Hartford.
“He’s very private,” LaSata said. “It’s a common trait. You deal with so many unsavory characters day in and day out that you don’t want to have too much of your life out there to be found. You want to stick to the basics, you want to do your job and you want to go home.”
LaSata said Semper was the primary detective whose investigation led to Jan. 5. Stepien is accused of aiming a semiautomatic handgun at a West Ridge Drive retiree during a burglary Jan. 4.
Zachs was on the run for 22 years after his conviction and 60-year sentence for gunning down outside the Prospect Café in 1987. He was captured Feb. 1 in Leon, Mexico.
“In both of these cases Det. Semper demonstrated a great deal of tenacity to follow up every lead that is presented to him and to work it through. He doesn’t take anything for granted. What’s the phrase that I think President Reagan used? He trusts but verifies.”
Semper, a native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, was still in high school at Hartford Public at the time of the murder. Det. Mark Puglielli, who combined with Semper to take a lead role in the Zachs case, was a teenager.
“It was just tenacity and not letting things lie and following things up and just staying active. Perseverance paid off,” LaSata said.
Eddie Monroig-Rosario has pleaded not guilty to charges of in front of a Fern Street home Oct. 27 – a brazen assault in a well-traveled area that unnerved the town for nearly three weeks. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing April 21.
West Hartford police also have charged Monroig-Rosario with three burglaries and an attempted burglary.
“[Semper’s] primary skills are in the area of evidence collection and scene processing, which you can’t overstate how important that is,” said LaSata, Semper’s supervisor. “He is very good at finding what was left behind and solving cases in that manner.”
After Hartford Public, Semper attended Central Connecticut State University. He worked security for Sears and was a police officer at Central before joining West Hartford’s force in 1989.
“It’s always been a trademark of his to follow up everything he can and to try to bring some measure of closure to a case.”