Woman at center of Gingerella homicide wants trial

April 15, 2019

The woman at the center of the Dec. 11, 2016 shooting death of Joey Gingerella at Ryan’s Pub in Groton wants her trial.

Latoya S. Knight, 36, of Groton, who is charged with interfering with police, rejected two plea offers from prosecutor Paul J. Narducci during an appearance Monday in New London Superior Court.

Both offers involved prison time. The first offer involved a one-year prison sentence for interfering with police, which is a misdemeanor. Narducci also offered Knight the option of pleading guilty to hindering prosecution, a felony offense, and serving 90 days in prison followed by a period of probation.

Knight stood before Judge Hillary B. Strackbein with her attorney, Victoria Pells, while Gingerella’s mother, Tammy de la Cruz, watched the proceeding from the courtroom gallery.

Knight said, “Yes ma’am,” when Judge Hillary B. Strackbein asked if she understands she could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted at trial.

According to court documents and testimony, Gingerella, 24, and others stepped in to stop Knight’s longtime live-in companion, Dante Hughes, from beating her in the parking lot of the Poquonnock Road pub. Hughes fatally shot Gingerella, was convicted of manslaughter and a weapons charge at trial, and is serving a 45-year prison sentence.

Police had stopped Knight, who is also known as “Tootie,” as she tried to leave the scene of the 1:30 a.m. shooting. When they questioned her in her SUV at the scene, she lied and told them a picture of Hughes from her phone was Justin Davenport of Norwich, who is Hughes’ brother. They took her to police headquarters and questioned her during a recorded interview.

Two days later, detectives interviewed Knight again after serving her with an arrest warrant charging her with interfering with the investigation by giving false information about Hughes’ identity.

Called to the witness stand during Hughes’ trial in July 2018, Knight, a mother of six children, testified that she was intoxicated when she provided police with two separate statements following the shooting and said she didn’t remember many of the details.

She had told police she threw a drink in Hughes’ face inside the bar and, the next thing she remembers, she was in the car and he was throwing “punch after punch after punch” at her face and head. She said she heard voices and somebody said, “Yo, get off her.” She said she passed out in the driver’s seat of her Nissan Armada SUV and was disoriented when she woke up and heard two gunshots. She said she saw Gingerella and another man on the ground, and that she drove away after somebody told her to “just leave.”

Her case was added to the trial list and is expected to go to trial later this year.