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Tragic Christmas for city family
While most people prepare for the happiest day of the year, a city family is still coming to terms with an unbearable tragedy.
Andrew Moffitt, 23, the son of Paulette and Rodney Moffitt, of Brockville, died early Wednesday morning trying to break up a fight in an Ottawa bar and grill.
Moffitt was stabbed once through the heart at the front door of the bar at about 12:40 a.m. He was dead within an hour.
"We're devastated," his mother said Thursday morning, her voice choked with sorrow.
"All his gifts are under the tree. We don't know what to do."
In a tragic coincidence, another Brockville man, a fellow University of Ottawa student whom the victim didn't know, has been charged in the incident. Moffitt, a computer engineering student who has been described as an academic genius, died hours before he planned to drive home for Christmas.
The third-year student was celebrating the last day of exams with his roommate and other friends when the incident happened.
Police said a fight broke out on the second floor of the bar while Moffitt and his friends were downstairs. Another confrontation began downstairs and when Moffitt tried to break it up, he was stabbed once, major crime Detective Dale Hayes said.
His attacker then fled the bar.
Moffitt was pronounced dead a short time later at the General site of the Ottawa Hospital.
Brockville police officers arrived at Paulette's home at 4 a.m. to deliver the horrible news.
"It's something you never, never, would ever think of," she said. "It was senseless."
Moffit's attacker snuffed out one life, but shattered many others. Andrew's two brothers, Rod Jr., 27, and 11-year-old Michael are taking the loss hard, his mother said. While struggling to cope with the loss of a child, Paulette Moffitt also has to worry about young Michael's psychological health.
"We've got a little guy that's 11 years old who said yesterday he doesn't think he could go on without his brother," she said.
"Michael lived for his brother," she said. "Nobody can replace him."
The child is asking difficult questions, she said. Why was the man carrying a knife when he was out to have a good time? Why didn't he just stab him in the arm so he could go to the hospital and open his Christmas gifts in the hospital?
Andrew took one day at a time and was a happy-go-lucky boy, his mother said. He was an avid golfer and hockey player.
"He loved hockey," she said. "He told me not long ago the best years in his life were as a kid playing hockey in Nepean."
Andrew was also the peacemaker in the family, but his mother takes no comfort in the fact he died trying to preserve the peace.
City resident Duncan Kerr, 23, one of Andrew's best friends, recalls sitting beside Andrew in history class at Thousand Islands Secondary School when the Moffitts first moved here from Ottawa six years ago.
"I was sort of speechless most of the day," he said Wednesday. "He was just a good friend."
"(It's) not the time of year for this kind of stuff to happen."
The news also shocked his former co-workers at Jack's No Frills. Andrew worked there part time while in high school, when the store was under different ownership.
"(He'd) do anything for you, a really nice kid," associate manager Emily Dancy said.
About four hours after the murder, a man called 911 claiming that police may be looking for him. Officers later arrested him.
Henry Danninger, 26, originally from Brockville, has been charged with second-degree murder.
The weapon used in the attack has not been recovered although regional police were conducting extensive searches of the area throughout the day.
"We just hope justice prevails because that's all that can happen. Your children aren't supposed to die before you," his mother said.
Andrew was hoping to finish his degree early so he could start a full-time job at Nortel, where his older brother also works as an engineer.
Just last week, in the middle of exams, Moffitt drove to Brockville for his mother's birthday, a memory she's cherishing more than ever.
"He drove in and left the same day, just to say happy birthday. That was the type of kid he was. I'm so glad he did," she said.
After spending the day in Ottawa yesterday, Paulette and Rod Moffitt returned to Brockville to make their son's funeral arrangements. A service will be held Monday at 11 a.m., at St. John Bosco parish in Brockville, with interment following at St. Francis Xavier Cemetery. Friends can call at Barclay Funeral Home on King Street Sunday, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
"He's what everybody dreams of having and he was murdered. That's all you can say," Paulette Moffitt said. "We lost someone very special."
With files from Maria McClintock of the Ottawa Sun and from Jason Murdoch.
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