WEB OF LIES

As po­lice in­ves­ti­gate Con­nie Da­bate’s vi­o­lent death, they un­cover secrets about her hus­band Richard’s dou­ble life—and charge him with mur­der

WHO - - Content - By Steve Helling

Will a fit­ness tracker help se­cure a mur­der con­vic­tion?

When po­lice re­sponded to a silent alarm in the up­mar­ket neigh­bour­hood of Elling­ton, Con­necti­cut, on the morn­ing of Dec. 23, 2015, home­owner Richard Da­bate told them a chill­ing story of a sub­ur­ban night­mare. He said he had strug­gled with a masked cam­ou­flage-clad in­truder who sub­dued him by zip-ty­ing him to a chair and stab­bing him with a box cut­ter. Then, Da­bate said, the 1.87m man chased his 39-year-old wife, Con­nie, into the base­ment and shot her in the stom­ach and head with a .357 mag­num. As they be­gan a fran­tic search for the gun­man, po­lice sum­moned ca­nine units to track his scent. But the dogs were un­able to lo­cate the in­truder, in­stead fol­low­ing Da­bate to the am­bu­lance where he was get­ting med­i­cal treat­ment for “su­per­fi­cial” wounds. “His story made no sense,” says a spokesman for the Con­necti­cut State Po­lice. “So we had to be­gin a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion to get to the bot­tom of it.”

Find­ing an­swers would take po­lice more than 16 months, and ul­ti­mately they came to the same con­clu­sion as their ca­nine unit. On April 14 po­lice ar­rested Da­bate, 40, on charges of mur­der, ev­i­dence tam­per­ing and giv­ing false state­ments. He has pleaded not guilty and was freed on $US1 mil­lion bail while await­ing trial later this year. In­ves­ti­ga­tors sub­mit­ted a damn­ing 50-page af­fi­davit to sup­port the ar­rest, claim­ing that elec­tronic records, in­clud­ing Con­nie’s Fit­bit move­ments on the morn­ing of her death, con­tra­dicted Da­bate’s ac­count of her mur­der. Even more shock­ing was the al­le­ga­tion by po­lice that Da­bate had a girl­friend who was preg­nant with his child—and in the days be­fore the killing he had texted her sweet noth­ings as well as a prom­ise to di­vorce Con­nie. “I knew it wasn’t a per­fect mar­riage,” says Con­nie’s friend Allie Clarke. “But I thought they were mi­nor is­sues, like dis­agree­ments over money. I never saw this com­ing.”

By out­ward ap­pear­ances the Da­bates seemed to have an idyl­lic life. He was a com­puter net­work ad­min­is­tra­tor; she worked as a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sales rep. They mar­ried in 2003 and had two sons, R.J., 9, and Con­nor, 6. They had a wide cir­cle of friends. “He’s very funny in an off­beat kind of way,” says Clarke. “And she was the kind­est woman you’d ever meet. The type who would never say no if you needed some­thing. They were dif­fer­ent peo­ple, but they seemed to re­ally like and re­spect each other.”

But ac­cord­ing to po­lice, Da­bate was liv­ing a se­cret life that his wife may have known nothing about. He had re­con­nected with a high-school flame be­fore Con­nie’s death, and their ro­mance led to preg­nancy. Dur­ing his in­ter­view with de­tec­tives, Da­bate ad­mit­ted to the ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair, but seemed vague about many of the de­tails, de­scrib­ing the preg­nancy as both planned and un­planned at dif­fer­ent times. “This sit­u­a­tion,” he al­legedly told po­lice, “popped up like a frick­ing soap opera.”

Even by soap-opera stan­dards, Da­bate couldn’t have pre­dicted the clue cops say was most damn­ing: Con­nie’s Fit­bit data. Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from the de­vice, Con­nie had been mov­ing around for nearly an hour af­ter her hus­band said she was killed. While Da­bate had told po­lice that his home alarm had been trig­gered around 9 AM, the Fit­bit showed Con­nie walking more than 365m—al­most half a kilo­me­tre— un­til 10.05 AM. “The time­line just didn’t add up,” says the Con­necti­cut po­lice spokesman. “There were a lot of ques­tions.”

While po­lice in­ves­ti­gate the crime, those close to the cou­ple are reel­ing, not only from the mur­der but be­cause Da­bate has been charged. Author­i­ties in­ter­viewed about 20 friends, many of whom said that the cou­ple’s mar­i­tal is­sues seemed mi­nor, al­most in­con­se­quen­tial. “Every mar­riage has prob­lems,” says Clarke. “But not like this. Most mar­riages don’t end with some­one be­ing killed.”

“The time­line just didn’t add up” —a po­lice spokesman

Their dream home: “They thought it was a great place to raise the kids,” says friend Allie Clarke of the fam­ily’s 315sq-m home in an up­mar­ket Con­necti­cut sub­urb.

Con­nie Da­bate Richard Da­bate

A WIFE MUR­DERED, A HUS­BAND AC­CUSED

LIVES SHAT­TERED The Da­bates (left) “seemed to have it all,” says a friend. At the fu­neral (right), Richard Da­bate “was very dis­traught.”

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