Della Jette and Sterling Jette were Connecticut siblings fatally shot by their mother’s boyfriend in a murder-suicide in Watertown on Tuesday, December 3, police say. Della Jette was 15 and Sterling Jette was 16, Watertown Police said. The suspect in the shooting, Paul W. Ferguson, 42, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Ferguson moved into the Watertown home with Della and Sterling Jette and their mother, Danielle Jette, about two weeks ago, police said in a statement. Watertown Police Chief John Gavallas said at a press conference that an argument took place before the shootings. Ferguson shot his girlfriend’s children before barricading himself in his bedroom and fatally shooting himself before police arrived, Gavallas said.
The siblings’ 40-year-old mother, Dani Jette, was not injured and is cooperating with police investigators, according to Gavallas.
The fight and shootings happened about 10 p.m., police said. “The deaths of these children is a tragedy for our whole community and the police department extends our deepest sympathy to the victims’ mother, family and friends,” police said in a statement.
Paul Ferguson had a previous felony conviction and was barred from legally owning or possessing a gun, according to Watertown police.
Della Jette Became Upset Over Ferguson Smoking Cigarettes in the Home & He Got a Gun & Attacked the Teen Siblings, Police Say
The incident at 1190 Litchfield Road began about 10 p.m. Tuesday night, according to Watertown Police. According to police, officers were sent to a call of a domestic disturbance with a shooter.
Chief John Gavallas said at a press conference that Della Jette was upset that Paul Ferguson was smoking inside their home and an argument began over that. “There was some animosity between him and her daughter,” Gavallas said. The chief said Della was arguing upstairs with her mother, Dani Jette, about that issue, while Ferguson was downstairs with Sterling Jette.
According to Gavallas, Ferguson went upstairs and told Della not to talk to her mother like she was after the fighting got loud. He then went back downstairs and got a Glock handgun and came back to where his girlfriend and her daughter were arguing, according to police.
Ferguson shot Sterling Jette when he tried to intervene, Gavallas said. Sterling was shot in the leg. Ferguson then chased Della onto the back deck of the home and shot her in the chest as Della’s mother called 911, according to Gavallas. Ferguson went back into the home and shot Sterling Jette in the chest, police said. He then went into the master bedroom and fatally shot himself in the head. Ferguson was found dead when officers, Gavallas said.
Della and Sterling Jette were transported to Waterbury Hospital, where they were pronounced dead, the chief said. Gavallas said Dani Jette tried to perform CPR on her daughter, but she didn’t respond.
“The son was home all evening, the daughter had gone on a field trip to New York with her school and returned around 8:30 or 9:00. She had a discussion with her mother about the smoking habits of Paul Ferguson, the deceased, and her and the mother, it became a little bit loud,” Gavallas said. “Ferguson was downstairs with the son watching TV. He came up and told the daughter to quiet down and not talk to her mother that way. They had a bit of a dustup back and forth.”
Gavallas said, “The boy communicated very briefly with the mother, because when she went upstairs she asked if he was OK and he made some sort of a response. Then the mother went out to the deck and began CPR on the daughter, who was not responding. When our officers cleared the house and EMTs arrived, we began first aid on the victims, but unfortunately, their wounds were so serious, it was futile.”
The investigation into the double murder-suicide is still ongoing. The Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad was at the scene along with Watertown Police, the Waterbury State’s Attorney’s Office and the state medical examiner’s office.
Della Jette & Sterling Jette Were Both Students at Kaynor Tech High School, Where Della Played Basketball & Soccer & Sterling Was on the Soccer Team
Della Jette and Sterling Jette were both students at WF Kaynor Technical High School in Waterbury, Connecticut, according to officials. Della Jette played basketball and soccer, while Sterling Jette also played soccer. They previously attended Swift Junior High in Watertown.
Della’s Facebook page shows her with her brother and mother on trips to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, at the beach and in New York City. Family members commented about how much Della looked like her mother.
“The deaths of these children is a tragedy for our whole community and the police department extends our deepest sympathy to the victims’ mother, family and friends,” Watertown Police Detective Mark Conway said at a press conference.
Their Father, Sterling Jette, Died by Suicide 3 Years Ago
The teens’ father, also named Sterling Jette, died on October 30, 2016, according to an online obituary. The obituary says he was the husband of Danielle Sisson Jette and the father of Sterling Jette Jr. and Della Jette.
He and Dani Jette were together for 24 years, according to his obituary. According to Watertown Police, Sterling Jette Sr. died by suicide. Officers were called to the same home where the murder-suicide occurred for a report of a self-inflicted gunshot wound three years earlier, police said.
“There’s a tragic history at that household,” Deputy Chief Josh Bernegger said. According to Gavallas, the children and their mother were home when he died. “They had a minor domestic dustup and as a result he shot himself,” Gavallas said. The gun in that shooting was a .380 that was legally owned and registered.
Sterling Jette Sr., “was educated in Waterbury Schools. Sterling was employed as an Eyelet Toolmaker at Albea in Watertown. He enjoyed working on cars, attending soccer games for his son and daughter and spending time with his family and friends,” the obituary said.
While Sterling Jette was named after his father, Della Jette was named after her late grandmother, the obituary shows.
The Teens’ Mother, Dani Jette, Is ‘Compeletely Distraught,’ Police Say
Watertown Police Chief Gavallas said Danielle Jette is “extremely distraught.” He said, “These domestic incidents can turn violent so quickly and this mother is completely distraught. Her boyfriend moved into the house two weeks ago for the holiday season. And he is gone, and her two children are gone.”
Police said Dani Jette did not know her boyfriend had the gun used in the shooting. Police said there were other guns in the house, but they were locked in a safe he did not have access to. Gavallas said they are still investigating who owned the guns and other details about the firearms found in the home. He did not say how many guns were found inside the house. The home was owned by Danielle Jette, according to Gavallas.
According to Facebook posts, Dani Jette and Ferguson had been dating since at least January 2018. Jette and Ferguson grew up together in Watertown, according to Facebook posts. In reaction to a photo of them together on Ferguson’s Facebook page, a friend wrote, “OMG…. What??? U 2?? How cute. OMG u guys didn’t age at all!!!!. Good for you!!!!”
According to court records, Ferguson was convicted of first-degree unlawful restraint in Waterbury court in 2007. He was arrested in August 2007 on charges of sexual assault on a spouse or cohabitant and the unlawful restraint charge. He was found not guilty of sexual assault, but guilty of unlawful restraint. Ferguson did not serve any prison time. He also has felony convictions for first-degree failure to appear, third-degree larceny and violation of probation. His most recent conviction was in 2014 on the larceny charge. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
There had been no prior calls to the home involving Ferguson and Jette, or reports of previous domestic violence involving the couple or the children. Dani Jette does not have a criminal record, police said. The sexual assault case involved a previous relationship Ferguson was in. Court records show that Ferguson had a lien against him for failing to make child support payments.
Kaynor Tech Says There Is ‘Nothing Worse’ That Can Happen to a School Community Than the Loss of Students
Jeffrey Wihbey, the superintendent of Connecticut’s technical schools, including Kaynor Tech, said in a statement, “There is nothing worse that can happen to a school community. Our number one priority right now is doing all we can to support our students, staff and families through this crisis,” said the state’s superintendent of technical education.”
The siblings previously attended Watertown public schools before moving to the state tech school for high school.
Watertown Public Schools Superintendent Rydell Harrison said in a statement, “The Watertown community has suffered a tremendous loss. Two former students were tragically killed last night in a shooting at their home. Although the two siblings who were killed were not enrolled at our high school, they attended Watertown schools through eighth grade and formed close relationships with students and staff over the years.”
Harrison said crisis teams were in place at Watertown High School and Swift Middle School to support students and staff as they grieve.
Harrison added, “Our school community, like the wonderful town we live in, will come together to do everything we can to provide support to our students, staff and families during this difficult time.”
Gavallas said, “When the father of the victims took his life, (Della and Sterling) were students at Swift Middle School, so many of the teachers worked very closely with them and they knew them. So it’s traumatic for them as well. It’s traumatic for the whole community. Everybody living in Watertown, they had many friends, many classmates, this is very hard to handle.”