Sentencing postponed for dying accomplice in Donnelly killings
Published 11:15 am, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Last April a jury spared Christopher DiMeo's life for killing Tim and Kim Donnelly in their downtown Fairfield jewelry store, but his girlfriend, Nicole Pearce, who agreed to testify against DiMeo, is now on her death bed.
Pearce had been expected to be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison Tuesday for her part in helping DiMeo plan the 2005 robbery of the Donnellys' Post Road store, but with members of the Donnelly family sitting in the courtroom, state Superior Court Judge Robert Devlin announced the sentencing would be postponed indefinitely.
Her lawyer, Robert Berke, said his client has advanced cervical cancer and could die shortly.
"She really only has a very short time to live and the matter should be continued until we are notified of her passing," added Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Corradino.
The Donnelly family, including the victims' son, Eric, declined comment as they left the courtroom.
On April 1, after more than two months of trial and a subsequent penalty hearing, a jury of six men and six women rejected the death penalty for DiMeo for killing the Donnellys during a robbery of their store on Feb. 2, 2005.
Pearce, who confessed to casing the Donnellys' store for DiMeo before the crime, agreed to plead guilty to felony murder and take a possible 50-year prison term. Berke said Pearce decided to plead guilty after seeing the autopsy photos of the Donnellys.
She ended up being a key witness for the state against DiMeo. Diagnosed with advanced cancer, she testified by video from her hospital room.
Berke said Pearce wanted to address the Donnelly family at her sentencing. "She wanted to make a statement to the family expressing her regret at her conduct. She wanted to give them some degree of closure," he said.
But when the time came Tuesday, Pearce was not able to go before a camera at the hospice unit at York Correctional Center for a video conference hearing. Berke said she is in a coma-like state.
"The last thing she told me was that she wanted to thank the Donnelly children for giving her the mercy she had not given their parents," he added.