Fairfield homicide trial ends as 'ex' testifies against DiMeo
It was a dramatic end to a trial that has been full of drama.
Nicole Pearce, possibly near death's door with terminal cancer, may have pusher former boyfriend Christopher DiMeo closer to a possible death sentence with video-taped testimony Monday from her hospital bed in his trial on charges of murdering Fairfield jewelers Tim and Kim Donnelly six years ago.
And now it's up to a jury to decide whether DiMeo intentionally murdered the Donnellys in their Post Road store, or if their deaths were a reckless or unintentional act.
DiMeo's lawyers have conceded their client killed the couple on Feb. 2, 2005. But they were expected to argue to the 12-member Superior Court jury Tuesday morning that their client either was so high on heroin he didn't intend to kill them or that Tim Donnelly was shot to death when he tried to struggle with DiMeo over the gun.
If the jury finds the couple's death wasn't intentional, DiMeo cannot be convicted of the two counts of murder, and he can't be convicted of capital felony and get the death penalty. He still could be found guilty of a lesser charge.
Both sides rested their cases Monday.
Prosecutors, after showing the jury Pearce's video-recorded testimony, put on the witness stand a psychiatrist to try and downplay the effects of the accused's heroin use.
The defense ended its brief case by presenting testimony from a psychologist to try and refute the state's expert.
But the main event of the day was clearly Pearce.
Ever since police arrested her and DiMeo in an Atlantic City motel two days after the Donnelly murders, it has been anticipated that Pearce would be a key witness for the prosecution. She confessed she had helped DiMeo plan not only the robbery of the Donnellys' store, but three other jewelry store robberies in New York. A sketch she made of the Donnellys' store was found in their Queens, N.Y., apartment.
Then, days before the start of the trial, Pearce was diagnosed with possibly terminal cervical cancer. One medical expert gave her only months to live.
Pearce, who is being treated at the University of Connecticut Health Center, last Friday testified in her hospital room. The testimony was recorded and then played for the jury Monday.
It was a wan and worn Nicole Pearce who finally got to tell her story. Sitting in a high-backed chair and dressed in a hospital gown, she broke down several times as she answered questions from Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Corradino. At one point, she became so upset recalling a robbery of a Long Island store in which DiMeo killed the manager that she vomited into a can beside her chair.
The 12 jurors and three alternates were transfixed as Pearce testified on screen, grim expressions on their faces. Only DiMeo appeared unaffected by the testimony, glancing occasionally at the screen.
"He said it didn't go good and I looked down and saw a drop of blood on his boot," Pearce sobbed as she recalled seeing DiMeo after he robbed the Donnellys' store. "He said it didn't go good and he didn't want to talk about it and we lay down and got high."
Pearce said that on the day of the murders, she and DiMeo were driving around Fairfield when they got a call from DiMeo's mother.
"She told Christopher that he needed to get out of New York and we stopped at the library to see if there was any news that they (police) were looking for him," she said.
DiMeo later dropped Pearce off at the Fairfield train station while he went to the Donnellys' store. He returned to their apartment later that night.
"The next morning, I woke up and turned on the TV and Chris' picture was on the television," she cried. "He heard me freaking out and woke up. He said, `You've got to get your stuff, we've got to go,' "
The only light moment of the day's testimony took place when the prosecutor showed Pearce her mug shot.
"I'm not usually that messed up," she laughed, adjusting her gown a bit.
Both sides in the case were to present their summations Tuesday morning, followed by the judge's instruction on the law to the jury, then deliberations.