A 16-year-old from Milford is charged with murder for allegedly stabbing a 17-year-old Fairfield Prep student to death during a fight at a house party in Shelton on Saturday.
Raul “Lito” Valle appeared in court in Derby on Thursday morning on charges connected to the death of James “Jimmy” McGrath and the alleged assault of three other teens who were found suffering from stab wounds on the front lawn of a house on Laurel Glen Drive Saturday night.
A warrant for Valle’s arrest that was unsealed Thursday detailed a violent, chaotic fight that unfurled on the front lawn of the house party just before midnight, when a group of teenagers from St. Joseph’s High School in Trumbull — who witnesses told police weren’t invited — pulled up to the party in a dark-colored SUV, according to the warrant.
The St. Joseph’s students allegedly got into a fight at another party on Lazy Brook Road earlier in the night, a confrontation that continued via group chat messages and ended at the 50-person party in Shelton, according to court records.
In interviews with police, the three surviving victims said that after the teens got out of the SUV, a first punch was thrown and a fight erupted, with teens from St. Joseph’s tumbling onto the ground with the partygoers from Shelton High School and Fairfield Prep, according to the warrant.
According to the warrant, one teen told police the group threatened that they had a knife, while some of the injured teens said that they didn’t know anyone in the group was armed until they looked down at their own bodies, and at McGrath, and saw blood.
McGrath was stabbed once in the chest during the fight. He suffered a fatal blow that broke through his rib cage and pierced his heart, according to court records.
Valle, who was arraigned in juvenile court on Wednesday, was identified by his attorney Jake Donovan and in court documents on Thursday — including the lengthy warrant for his arrest issued on Monday — that were unsealed after his case was transferred to adult court.
Valle’s father, also Raul Valle, attended his son’s hearing Thursday and whispered “I’m sorry” as he walked out of the courthouse in the rain with his head tucked beneath a black suit jacket.
”I’m sorry to the family,” he said quietly.
McGrath, who was pronounced dead at a hospital early Sunday, was a junior at Fairfield College Preparatory School, where he played football and lacrosse. Parents Margaret and Kevin McGrath described him as “the sunshine of their life,” in his obituary, which also said he was the best friend and confidant of his sister, Rose.
He was described as “a wonderfully happy person with a big heart who was a loving friend to many,” and a loyal teammate and champion athlete.
According to court records, McGrath’s death was ruled a homicide. The knife, investigators say, was wielded by Valle.
Valle, a football player at St. Joseph’s, was picked out in a photo lineup by at least three teens, one of whom said they were “100% positive” Valle was the one that stabbed him, police said in the warrant.
One teen told police that he saw Valle swinging the knife at his friends, while another said he watched Valle walk away from the fight, then spin around and stab McGrath in his chest, according to the warrant.
According to the warrant, one of the boys suffered a collapsed lung after being stabbed three times, once near his hip, once near his waistline and once on the left side of his upper torso. Another was stabbed four times in his left leg — the stab wounds were so deep that they couldn’t be stitched without risking infection, the boy’s father told police.
Valle’s attorney said Thursday that he was still reviewing evidence in his client’s case.
“Obviously this is an unspeakable tragedy for everyone involved,” said Donovan, who declined to comment further on how his client or his family were doing. Both of Valle’s parents were in the courtroom Thursday for the hearing.
Valle is listed on the St. Joseph’s High School football roster under his nickname, Lito. He is the only player whose year in school and position on the team are not listed on the website. St. Joseph’s released a statement this week saying that the entire school community was “horrified and deeply saddened” by McGrath’s death and Valle’s arrest.
“We are all still shocked by this heartbreaking situation,” the school said Thursday, adding that counselors and social workers were on campus to support students as they processed the incident.
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“The St. Joseph High School Community continues to offer solemn prayers for the McGrath family and Fairfield Prep Community as they mourn the unthinkable loss of a son and cherished classmate,” the school said.
A walk-through visitation in honor of McGrath was held Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at the Egan Chapel of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Fairfield University. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Theresa Church, 5301 Main St., Trumbull, on Friday at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Fairfield College Preparatory School, 1073 North Benson Road., Fairfield, CT 06824 in memory of Jimmy McGrath. To leave an online condolence, visit abriola.com.
A GoFundMe fundraiser that has been set up “in honor of James “Jimmy” McGrath” has raised more than $124,000, with donations from more than 1,300 people.
Valle is scheduled to appear in court next in Milford Court Part A on June 7, according to Donovan.
He was being held in lieu of $2 million bond, court records show.
Information from Courant reporter Jesse Leavenworth was used in this report.