Connecticut high school lacrosse player murder: Experts say legal consequences possible for party host parents

James McGrath died and three others were injured after a stabbing at a high school party in Shelton, Connecticut

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Could the Connecticut parents whose home turned into a crime scene over the weekend when a teen allegedly stabbed four high schoolers be held liable in connection with an attack that left a high school football and lacrosse player dead?

James "Jimmy" McGrath, a football and lacrosse player at Fairfield College Preparatory School, was killed in the Saturday altercation, according to Shelton police.

Depending on what the evidence shows, there could be criminal charges or civil liability for the parents, according to Mike Lawlor, an associate professor at the University of New Haven’s Criminal Justice Department and former state lawmaker. So far, authorities have released few details and the courts have not yet unsealed relevant documents.

"We have no idea what the whole story is," he told Fox News Digital. "But it happened at somebody’s house…there were a bunch of young kids, high school kids, involved, and one thing leads to another and four kids get stabbed. Now one of them is dead."

Fairfield Prep student Jimmy McGrath and a memorial outside the home where he was allegedly stabbed.

Fairfield Prep student Jimmy McGrath and a memorial outside the home where he was allegedly stabbed. (Fairfield College Preparatory School/ Fox News)

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If the parents can be proven to have knowingly, recklessly or negligently permitted minors to illegally possess liquor at their home or failed to halt such possession, they may be guilty of a misdemeanor under the state’s decade-old social host law.

"The details are very important in a case like this," said Joel Faxon, a New haven-based trial lawyer who is not connected to the case. "It would depend on the level of knowledge of the parents, whether they negligently supervised their child, or whether they negligently allowed weapons to be accessible by a child, or they knew of some serious problem that the child had. It has to be fairly…but it is possible that there could be some degree of liability on the parents if they were found to be negligent and they had some specific knowledge."

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According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this can happen even if a parent is not home or unaware of the drinking.

James McGrath poses in his lacrosse uniform.

James McGrath poses in his lacrosse uniform. (Fairfield College Preparatory School)

"Our law basically says that if you're a homeowner, and your home is the host of a party where underage kids are drinking, if you either knew about it or you should have known about it…whether you’re there or not, it’s a crime," Lawlor said.

They could also be forced to pay restitution or face criminal charges when someone is hurt.

Neighbors told Fox News Digital Thursday they heard girls screaming for help just before midnight Saturday and called 911. They said they did not think any of the victims lived at the home, but believed that partygoers may have been drinking.

McGrath succumbed to his injuries and three other teens were hospitalized.

People coming and going from the home Thursday declined to speak with Fox News Digital.

A 16-year-old murder suspect allegedly stabbed Jimmy McGrath outside this home on Laurel Glen Drive in Milford, Connecticut, where a memorial in the shape of a heart was placed outside. 

A 16-year-old murder suspect allegedly stabbed Jimmy McGrath outside this home on Laurel Glen Drive in Milford, Connecticut, where a memorial in the shape of a heart was placed outside.  (Fox News Digital)

But neighbors described the family as good parents with good kids. One of them said she called 911 after hearing girls screaming for help.

Witnesses said about 30 cars had been parked along the street and around the corner the night of the party, which they said took place with the host’s parents out of town and may have involved underage drinking. At some point, a fight broke out, according to police.

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An obituary for McGrath describes him as the "sunshine" of his parents' life and his sister's "best friend and confidant."

On Wednesday, a heart-shaped memorial sat outside the home where the event unfolded.

A 16-year-old from Milford has been arrested in connection with the case. He was being held on $2 million bond.

"That's a significant bond," Faxon said. "But they can always argue to reduce it."

Because he is over 15 and the charges include murder, in Connecticut, the case will automatically be transferred to adult court, if it hasn’t been already, Lawlor said. There’s also a chance other teens at the party could face charges next.

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The takeaway for parents, he advises: "Just do what you can to make sure that your kids are not drinking…not having a party in your house where everybody's drinking."

"I'm not saying that's what happened," he added. "It just seems like that's the kind of thing that usually is associated with this kind of outcome."

The Shelton Detective Bureau is still actively investigating McGrath's death and encouraging anyone with information about the incident to call the Shelton Police Department at 203-924-1544.