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Manchester firefighter held until entering VA program

March 13. 2013 10:49PM

MANCHESTER - A Manchester firefighter, accused of attempting to strangle his girlfriend and of threatening her and himself with a handgun, will enter a Veterans Administration residential program to address issues resulting from his service in Iraq.

By mutual agreement Witty Phelps, 46, of 59 Drew Ave., will be held without bail until he is accepted into a VA residential program, at which time bail will be set at $50,000 personal recognizance.

At his arraignment Tuesday, police prosecutors filed a motion for preventative detention and the agreement followed discussions between prosecutors and Phelps' attorney, Arthur Gatzoulis.

If Phelps should check himself out of the facility or fail to complete the program, bail will revert to a no-bail hold. A hearing will be held upon completion of the VA program to determine an amount of bail, pending resolution of the charges.

Phelps' girlfriend told police he is a veteran who sustained a head injury while fighting in Iraq and has been diagnosed with PTSD. She said his problems with anger and aggression began around Thanksgiving 2012 and she urged him to go to the Veterans Administration for help. She said the initial efforts by the VA to help resolve the issues had negative effects and the anger and anxiety got worse, resulting in several occasions when Phelps put the gun to his own head before the March 9 incident that resulted in his arrest.

Fire Chief James Burkush said Phelps, who joined the department in 2002, has earned leave that can be used for the VA residential program.

Burkush said Phelps will still have to face the felony charges, but he said: "One step at a time."

Crime, law and justice Manchester

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