As DiMeo escapes execution, Fairfielders debate death penalty vs. prison for life
Published 3:50 pm, Friday, April 1, 2011
"That's not the right decision," the owner of Engraver's World in downtown Fairfield said, shaking his head at the news. "It should definitely be the death penalty, and I think just about every merchant here feels the same."
The murders of the well-liked, low-key couple shocked the town.
But in a community many perceive as progressive, the reality of Friday's decision forced some who theoretically oppose the death penalty to reconsider.
It was Feb. 2, 2005, just a little past 5 p.m. when DiMeo walked into Donnelly Jewelers, at the corner of Post Road and Sanford Street. The routine, afternoon rush hour would soon take a dramatic -- and tragic -- turn, with police cars and yellow tape marking off the scene where DiMeo, using a semi-automatic pistol, first shot Tim Donnelly four times, then Kim Donnelly five times.
He filled his shopping bag with jewelry and fled, but was captured two days later in Atlantic City.
"I'm not happy that it's [over] this way," de Vidas said. "He killed somebody, he should be killed. It's as simple as that."
At Chef's Table a few doors down the Post Road, Brian Davidson pondered the life sentence for DiMeo as he finished lunch. "I'm not a proponent of capital punishment, but in this case ..." Davidson said, pausing. "That whole situation kind of shakes your belief in the idea that humans are inherently good."
Perhaps because the death-penalty issue hit home in Fairfield, and wasn't just a theoretical discussion, many people having lunch downtown Friday were reluctant to give their names, if not their opinions, on the sentencing.
Perhaps, while they thought they opposed capital punishment, they were leaning toward it in this instance.
In one booth at Chef's Table, two men debated the question, and were surprised to hear DiMeo had escaped the death penalty. One of the two friends said he does not believe in the death penalty, but his friend had a different take. "I do," he said. "If you brutally kill two people, I do."
With death penalty, the men agreed, there is often a lingering doubt about whether the right person was convicted. In this case, however, both agreed that there was no question. "He did it," the one man said. "He confessed, no question."
At another table, a group of women found their own opinions ran the gamut.
"I don't believe in the death penalty, so I guess I agree with the verdict," one said. "He's young, he made a mistake, but I'm not pardoning what he did."
One of her friends agreed to not being a "big fan" of the death penalty. But, she added, her gut feeling in the DiMeo case was that the sentence was not fair because of "the devastation that was left for their (Donnelly) kids and this community."
But a third friend didn't waffle on her view of the life sentence. "That's a disgrace," she said.
But down the street at LaModa -- next door to the shop where the Donnellys died -- a young woman thought that perhaps the life sentence was best.
Rather than experiencing a few moments of terror before being put to death, she said, DiMeo will now have a long time to consider what he did. "I feel like he should just stay in jail and rot."
Fairfield Police Detectives Ed Greene and Peter Bravo, who were among the investigators in the Donnelly homicide case, went to the courthouse Friday to hear the jury's decision. "I respect the jury's decision," Greene said. "They're the ones who heard all the testimony, saw all the evidence. They did a tremendous amount of work over the past couple of months."
He said, however, it is unfortunate for the Donnelly family that it took six years for this case to conclude.
Police Chief Gary MacNamara said he is pleased that DiMeo will "no longer have the ability to be out in the community and hurt anyone else." With the case finally ended, "It allows us, as a community, to realize that although justice was delayed, justice was not denied and this individual is being held accountable for his crimes."
"My immediate reaction is that I'm just thankful that it is over," First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said, "and this person will never be able to hurt anyone else and he'll be locked up for good."