Stratford man pleads guilty to killing niece
BRIDGEPORT — A Stratford man, who told family members he would do anything to protect his niece, is facing 25 years in prison for fatally shooting her.
Michael “Buddha” Catchings, 23, pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Earl Richards to first-degree manslaughter with a firearm and first-degree assault on Monday as he was about to go to trial.
Asked by the judge if he agreed with the allegations against him, Catchings looked down and simply answered, “Yes.”
Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney C. Robert Satti Jr. told the judge that under the plea bargain he had agreed to reduce the charges from murder and attempted murder. He said the victim’s family did not want Catchings prosecuted for homicide.
Catchings faces 25 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and a concurrent 20-year term on the assault charge when he is sentenced March 13.
Catchings is accused of fatally shooting 27-year-old Raenetta Catchings, the mother of two small children, in front of her Stratford home in the early morning hours of Aug. 13, 2017, and wounding her boyfriend, Marc Elliott, of Bridgeport.
Police responding to a call of gunshots at the North Avenue home said they found Raenetta Catchings lying in the street surrounded by family members with a gunshot wound in her chest. She was pronounced dead at Bridgeport Hospital. Elliot was found a short distance away suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, police said.
From the start police said the large group of family at the scene refused to talk to investigators. Officers learned from other witnesses that the Catchings family had been holding a birthday party. During the party, Raenetta Catchings and Elliott had walked out to the street to have an argument, police said.
At some point, police said, several people from the birthday party walked over to the arguing couple and the situation escalated.
Police said witnesses told them a male voice was heard yelling, “I’ll shoot your whole family. I’ll shoot this whole block,” and then another voice responded, “Buddha, Buddha, no!”
Witnesses then heard two gunshots and Michael Catchings ran one way and Elliot ran another way, police said.
Police said another witness told them Michael and Raenetta Catchings were very close, like brother and sister, and that Michael Catchings intervened to protect his niece but accidentally shot her.