ER doctor: Accused killer Richard Dabate's injuries consistent with self-inflicted wounds
Apr. 6—VERNON — A Hartford Hospital emergency department physician who oversaw the care of Richard Dabate the day his wife was murdered testified today that Dabate's injuries were consistent with self-inflicted wounds.
That assessment was based on the superficial nature of the wounds and their location on the front of his body, Dr. Charles Johndro said.
Johndro made those statements this afternoon as the last of multiple witnesses called by the state. The prosecutor spent much of the morning calling first responders to testify about their actions on the morning of Dec. 23, 2015, when Dabate, 45, is accused of killing his wife Connie.
Prosecutor Matthew Gedansky was part way through his questioning when he asked Johndro if Dabate's injuries were self-inflicted. Defense lawyer Michael Fitzpatrick objected, and Judge Corinne Klatt sent the jury out of the room.
Fitzpatrick argued that no foundation had been built yet through questioning for the witness to make such a declaration, and that it was beyond Johndro's scope of work. He isn't a coroner or trained to make forensic diagnoses, Fitzpatrick argued.
Gedansky offered to ask more questions first, and did so, delving into Johndro's background as a medic in the Air Force, a paramedic in New York City, and his time as a resident physician. Fitzpatrick had his turn to ask questions too, and ultimately Klatt made a decision.
She barred Gedansky's original question, and said instead he could ask Johndro if Dabate's injuries were consistent with self-inflicted wounds.
During his cross examination, Fitzpatrick asked Johndro why he didn't make a note about Dabate's injuries possibly being self-inflicted in his report. Also, if he believe Dabate injured himself, why didn't he make a referral for Dabate to meet with a mental health professional.
Johndro said it was a clinical impression he felt at the time, but that information wasn't something he would have entered in the record at that point in Dabate's hospital visit. He also said Dabate never made any statements about suicidal ideation or harming himself.
Earlier in the day retired state police trooper Michael Connors testified that soon after arriving at the Dabates' home, a superior officer asked him to grab a camera and photograph the scene. He headed inside, where he took pictures of Dabate lying on the floor in the kitchen, face down, with a chair on his back.
Connors said he didn't know the circumstances of what happened yet, and initially believed Dabate was deceased, based on the blood smeared on the floor and the way he was lying motionless and silent. He learned that wasn't true, when Dabate spoke, he said.
Connors began taking pictures of Dabate, first from a distance and then closer, concluding with a close-up shot of Dabate's wrist zip-tied to a folding chair. Connors also took photographs of Connie Dabate where she was found deceased in the basement.
Gedansky presented the photographs in the courtroom and had Connors identify each as one he had taken.
Under cross examination by defense lawyer Trent LaLima, Connors revealed that there was an additional picture not included in the list, because it was unintentionally deleted. That picture was taken of Dabate from a different side than the ones that followed.
Connors explained that while attempting to print the pictures he took that day, they were deleted. He was able to recover all but one of them using a file recovery software. He said he didn't know why that happened.
He further explained under questioning from Gedansky that the missing picture didn't depict anything different, and Dabate didn't appear to move at all between the time he took that one and the rest.
Both Tuesday and today, Gedansky questioned state police personnel about the amount of lighting in the home's basement. It was one of the first places troopers searched in the home, and it's where they located Connie Dabate's body.
On Tuesday, two state police personnel said they were able to see in the basement without turning on the lights or using flashlights.
Defense lawyer Michael Fitzpatrick dug further into that line of questioning today with Trooper Kyle Cormier.
He asked Cormier if the lights from the first floor of the house shone down into the basement. Cormier said he didn't recall.
Fitzpatrick also asked about the basement's bulkhead door. Cormier said the inside door was open, and then the steel bulkhead doors were wide open as well, letting in light.
The questions about the lighting likely relate to Dabate's statements about his wife's death. According to state police, Dabate said the basement was dark, limiting his ability to see what was happening. He said he thought his wife ended up lying on her back after being shot by the intruder, but she looked like a shadow.
Dabate was charged in April 2017 with murder, tampering with physical evidence, and making a false statement in connection with the death of his wife, Connie, death on Dec. 23, 2015.
He's been free after posting a $1 million bond several days after his arrest.
Dabate told state police the day of the murder that a masked intruder killed Connie and also attacked him and tied him up.
State police and the prosecutor have said Dabate staged his wife's murder as a home invasion to avoid the fallout of a divorce, as he was expecting a baby with one of his mistresses.
The case has become known as the "Fitbit murder" because, state police said they had determined that Connie Dabate's Fitbit device, used to track physical activity, continued to register movement for almost an hour after her husband said that she had been murdered by an intruder in their basement.
Dabate's lawyers sought to have that evidence excluded, but a judge ruled it could be introduced.
The long-delayed trial was originally set to take place in April 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed it. The first witnesses were called April 5, and the trial is expected to last approximately six weeks.
Dabate faces a maximum of 66 years in prison.
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