Judge berates woman who killed paraeducator as family decries sentence as ‘not justice’


Left, Shelley Stamp (Casey’s Eastside Memorial Funeral Home obituary). Right, Heather Anderson (WTNH:YouTube screenshot)

Left, Shelley Stamp (Casey’s Eastside Memorial Funeral Home obituary). Right, Heather Anderson (WTNH/YouTube screenshot)

Shelley Stamp was 34 years old when she was found dead inside her Connecticut home nearly two years ago, laying in a pool of blood after being beaten and strangled to death with her own jacket during a home invasion so her killer could get money for drugs. While the woman who admitted killing Stamp will spend up to three decades in prison, the paraeducator’s surviving family immediately came out and criticized the sentence as too lenient for the crime she committed and the life she ended.

New Haven Superior Court Judge Joseph B. Schwartz on Wednesday ordered Stamp’s killer, 36-year-old Heather Anderson, to serve a sentence of 25 to 30 years in a state correctional facility. Anderson in December entered an Alford plea to one count of felony murder for Stamp’s slaying.

An Alford plea is functionally equivalent to a guilty plea in that it results in a conviction, but it allows a defendant to maintain their claim of innocence while conceding that the state has sufficient evidence to convict them at trial.

The sentencing hearing

Prior to Anderson being formally sentenced, Stamp’s mother and sister read emotional victim impact statements, often speaking directly to Anderson, who they say killed Stamp over “peanuts,” according to a report from New Britain, Connecticut NBC affiliate WVIT.

“I hope the look on my sister’s face, the cries of help as you brutally attacked her, haunts you for the rest of your life,” said Laura Tajildeen, Stamp’s sister. “I hope you rot in your prison cell for the rest of your miserable life, and you dwell on the choices that you’ve made, and they haunt you for every minute of every day, because you deserve no happiness and no mercy from the court as you had none for my sister.”

Stamp’s mother, Kathy Daversa, said she fought for her daughter but had “not obtained justice” with Wednesday’s sentence.

“25 to 30 years is not justice for the brutal and heinous murder of a vivacious, caring, loving, young woman in the prime of her life,” Daversa reportedly said. “She must have been so scared. What a horrible way to die. Looking up at a stranger’s face full of rage, in desperate need of money to supply your disgusting drug habit. I picture her horrific death in my mind over and over again. No one can imagine picturing your daughter’s vicious murder obsessively.”

Following the statements, Anderson apologized to Stamp’s family, saying she “didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” per WVIT.

The judge also lambasted Anderson for what he called a “particularly troubling murder” that was “truly and completely random,” according to the Hartford Courant.

“I agree with the state, it was done for peanuts. For nothing but a few bucks to buy drugs. It is unforgivable. It kind of leaves me at a loss for words,” Schwartz reportedly said. “When you murder somebody, you don’t just murder the complainant. In a lot of ways you murder their entire family. Not only have you changed them forever, you have stolen all kinds of memories and the future that they were supposed to have together.”

The murder

As previously reported by Law&Crime, on Oct. 29, 2022, Stamp’s brother-in-law went to her apartment because family members had not heard from her all day. After making the discovery and calling 911, official help arrived just after 10 p.m.

Firefighters and paramedics turned Stamp — who was face down on the floor — over to find her head, face and neck wrapped with a shirt or jacket, according to arrest warrant applications obtained by the Register. Part of the garment had been stuffed inside her mouth.

According to law enforcement, Anderson and another woman, Shannon Gritzbach, traveled to Stamp’s apartment the night before. Anderson was allegedly looking for a man she thought would give her money. That man used to live in the apartment where Stamp lived but had since moved to another unit in the building.

Surveillance footage shows Anderson unsuccessfully trying to get into Stamp’s unit at around 11:55 p.m., police say. Later footage shows the defendant walking back toward the apartment when Stamp arrived home from work roughly 20 minutes later, police say.

Anderson would go on to admit that she shouldered Stamp to the ground, face-first, and stole several items from her apartment — including $70 in cash, credit cards, and leftovers from the victim’s refrigerator, according to the Waterbury Police Department. Anderson said she heard agonized breathing but did not stop to help Stamp; she denied tying the shirt or jacket around her head, police say.

In warrants obtained by the Hartford Courant, police said Anderson stole a container full of spaghetti out of the victim’s fridge. Investigators say Stamp’s debit card was used four times after her death: once at a Burger King, and three times at a gas station. The final two attempts at the gas station, however, were declined by the bank.

Police say Anderson had Stamp’s license, health insurance card, and credit card in her possession when she was arrested in November 2022. Gritzbach was taken into custody a few days later.

Law enforcement does not believe Gritzbach entered the apartment. She was initially charged with murder as well as other serious charges. Gritzbach was later released on misdemeanor charges.

There is a warrant out for Gritzbach’s arrest after she failed to appear for her last court appearance in connection with Stamp’s death.

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

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