VERNON, Conn. — A jury found Richard Dabate guilty Tuesday for murdering his wife, Connie, at their Ellington home in 2015. The case has garnered national attention, in part, because of evidence pertaining to the Fitbit tracker she was wearing at the time of her death.
Dabate was found guilty of murder, tampering with evidence, and making false statements following a five-week trial. It took the 12 jurors about three hours across two days to reach the verdict in Rockville Superior Court.
Rick faces 125 years to life in prison. Connie's family spoke to reporters outside the courthouse Tuesday shocked by how quickly the verdict was reached.
"I didn't expect the verdict to happen so soon," brother Keith Margotta said. "I was really skeptical but it was kind of surreal. It was a relief but at the same time it was very traumatic."
He said it is a weight lifted off his shoulders, but they didn't think the verdict would be determined Tuesday.
A family spokesperson, Wayne Rioux, said justice has prevailed.
"The trial was not about a Fitbit," he said. "The trial was about a cold-blooded, planned murder of Connie."
A jury was picked for the case in early 2020, before state courts shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. A judge dismissed that jury last August, saying it had been empaneled too long and some jurors had moved out of state, and a new panel was selected beginning in late February. The trail started in April.
Rioux says the wait has been painful for the family, especially as Rick has been out on bail since his arrest in 2017.
"This murderer has been convicted as he should be," he said.
Dabate testified at the trial that a large masked man with a voice like actor Vin Diesel dressed in camouflage shot his wife and tied him up at the couple’s Tolland County home in December 2015 just days before Christmas.
His defense attorney, Trent LaLima, called the verdict a disappointment, believing they had a strong case proving he is innocent.
"Obviously we're going to be back in September in court, but there's more things that we can argue," he said citing possible motions come September. "[Rick] know we're going to be back and keep fighting so he's ready for that."
Police said information on Connie’s Fitbit contradicted her husband's story and showed she was moving around an hour after he said she was killed.
Jurors heard from more than 100 witnesses — including Dabate — over 22 days and saw 600 pieces of evidence. Dabate testified he came home after realizing he’d forgotten his laptop and found a large man wearing camouflage inside the house.
The man, he claims, shot Connie to death in their basement, stabbed and tied him to a folding chair, Rick testified, before he burned the alleged intruder with a torch.
Dabate also admitted that he had been having an affair with another woman at the time of his wife's death and had lied about it to police.
The judge set bond at $5 million and ordered GPS monitoring until the next court date which is September 16. Court officers put handcuffs on Dabate and took him away. A Judicial Branch Martials van was seen leaving the back of the courthouse Tuesday.
Prosecutors called numerous people from Dabate's neighborhood who testified they didn't see a man in camouflage or anything else they thought was suspicious, on the day of the killing. A woman called by the defense testified she was cleaning a house nearby and may have seen a deer or a dark-green figure passing by a window.
“The thorough and thoughtful examination of technology was key to this investigation and was significant in proving that the defendant was guilty of this crime,” Prosecutor Matthew Gedansky said in a statement. “In the end, though, this was another case of domestic violence. And though much progress has been made in recent years to support victims and survivors and to hold abusers accountable, these domestic violence homicides are still happening so we must continue to work together to end domestic violence.”
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