by John Pirro
Posted: 01/01/2012 8:36 PM

DANBURY -- Luis Encalada was a 42-year-old undocumented immigrant from Ecuador who was so drunk he could barely stand and had about 30 cents in his pocket when he died, according to police.

Joseph DaSilva, the man charged in Encalada's death, is downtown Danbury's biggest landlord, owner of some 70 properties with a total appraised value of $45.4 million, according to city records.

Police said that DaSilva, on Nov. 6, 2009, found Encalada and two other men trespassing in a Town Hill Avenue apartment he owned and in a fit of anger, beat him and kicked him down the stairs, causing the injuries that ultimately proved fatal.

For nearly two years, ever since DaSilva was charged with manslaughter, nearly every story about the case has led to a flurry of comments on The News-Times web site. Opinions have been divided between people who cite the dead man's immigration status and believe DaSilva was protecting his property against a group of drunken intruders, and those who claim the case was dragging through the court because DaSilva, who has pleaded not guilty and been free on bond since his arrest, was receiving preferential treatment.

"When people don't have all the information, its difficult to have an accurate opinion," said Wilson Hernandez, a local businessman and a leader of city's Ecuadorean community. "People talk and they want to know what is happening. At the same time, they really want to believe justice will be done."

On Wednesday, the process of providing some of those answers is expected to begin in state Superior Court in Danbury, with the start of jury selection in DaSilva's trial for manslaughter and assault.

Six jurors and at least two alternates must be chosen before testimony begins.

Neither Assistant State's Attorney Sharmese Hodge nor defense lawyer Eugene Riccio were willing to discuss the case last week, or even speculate how long the trial would take.

"I really don't think it's appropriate to discuss a case on the eve of trial. I'm kind of old school on that," Riccio said.

But even before the first witness takes the stand, Judge Robin Pavia must rule on a variety of motions, including a key request by the defense to suppress statements DaSilva made to police when they interviewed him shortly after Encalada died.

Asked by detectives whether it was possible that he was just defending himself when the men in the apartment "got rough" with him, DaSilva answered, "No, I wasn't there at all," according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

But police subsequently established, through a statement from one of DaSilva's employees, that the landlord had been in the apartment and fought with the trespassers, court documents show.

Although Hodge previously termed the suppression motions "standard" in criminal trials, any evidence that leads jurors to believe a suspect lied to investigators could be damaging to the defense.

The outcome of the criminal trial also may affect the $3.5 million wrongful death lawsuit filed against DaSilva on behalf of Encalada's estate. The dead man's widow and children, who are living in Ecuador, are the plaintiffs in the case.

That suit, which is pending in state Superior Court in Bridgeport, could go to trial later this year.

Contact John Pirro at or 203-731-3342.