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
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.
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.”