A Connecticut computer technician in love with two different women has been found guilty of killing his wife, then floating a preposterous cover story that an obese, masked intruder with a deep, bass voice like actor Vin Diesel actually broke in and shot her after asking for their credit cards and PIN numbers.
Richard Dabate, a 40-year-old from the town of Ellington, was convicted by a jury Tuesday on all charges—first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, and providing a false statement—in the Dec. 23, 2015 death of Connie Dabate. Richard Dabate’s seemingly airtight alibi unraveled before his very eyes, thanks to data from Connie’s Fitbit that undercut his story.
“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,” State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky said. “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.”
Outside the courthouse after the verdict, Connie Dabate’s family said in a statement: “Justice has prevailed today. As you know this trial was designated as the ‘Fitbit trial.’ The trial was not about a Fitbit but about a cold-blooded and planned murder of Connie, our daughter… There will be no closure for the Margotta family but there is finally justice for Connie.”
Dabate’s defense lawyers said outside court that they were disappointed in the verdict but that their fight was not over.
During the five-week trial, Dabate was described by prosecutors as “a ticking time bomb” who had painted himself into a romantic corner. Detectives discovered that Dabate had impregnated his mistress, Sara Ganzer. The two first met in junior high school, and began a physical relationship in May 2015, Ganzer testified. About a month later, Ganzer said she found out she was pregnant.
Seven months later, 39-year-old pharmaceutical rep Connie Dabate would be dead, shot twice in the back of the head and dumped in the basement of the home she shared with her husband. Dabate was arrested in April 2017 and released on $1 million bail.
In statements to police and in court, Dabate claimed the camouflage-clad intruder led him into the kitchen after shooting Connie and stabbed him in the legs with a boxcutter, subsequently rendering him immobile by zip-tying him to a chair. While tied down, Dabate said he managed to grab a blowtorch and burned the intruder’s face, who then fled the scene.
But multiple neighbors testified that they were nearby during the alleged home invasion, bringing their kids to school or heading to work, and none spotted a masked man in full camo. And Dabate’s story appeared to fall apart completely when investigators subpoenaed Fitbit for the data from Connie’s device.
Dabate said he left the house shortly after 8 a.m. that morning to bring his two sons to the school bus stop, then returned around 8:30 to put on a “work shirt,” the arrest warrant states. He claimed he saw Connie backing her car out of the driveway as he returned, and that she was headed to a spin class at the local YMCA. However, the class was canceled, so Connie went back home.
At some point during his 40-minute commute to the office, Dabate said he realized he had forgotten his laptop, so he turned around and drove home. When he arrived between 8:45 and 9 a.m., Dabate claimed he heard a noise upstairs, which he assumed was the cat. Dabate then claimed he was “manhandled” by an intruder, and heard Connie walk in while he was getting roughed up.
Dabate said he then heard two shots, and that after the supposed intruder tied him up, he freed himself, pressed a panic button linked to the couple’s home alarm system, and called 911.
Detectives said Dabate’s story kept changing, and Connie’s Fitbit sealed the deal, according to the warrant.
The first activity on the device on Dec. 23 occurred at 7:52 a.m., with an “extended period of inactivity…consistent with [Connie] driving to the YMCA,” the warrant states. Connie is seen on surveillance video at the Y, then her Fitbit registered another 10-minute inactive period “consistent with” her drive back home. She arrived at roughly 9:20 a.m., and the Fitbit was stationary from 9:37 a.m. to 9:43 a.m., according to the warrant. After a few minutes of non-movement, during which time detectives believe Connie was resting, the Fitbit showed regular movement for the next 20 minutes or so.
Online data reviewed by investigators revealed that Connie was active on Facebook between 9:40 a.m. and 9:46 a.m., and posted videos from her iPhone from an IP address linked to the house, according to the warrant.
“[Connie’s] ‘Fitbit’ registers movement at 1005hrs,” the warrant states. “This is the last movement registered by the victim’s ‘Fitbit.’”
Taken together, this would mean Connie was alive and well for roughly an hour after Dabate said he had witnessed her death. Police K9 units detected no other human scents in the home.
In court, Dabate testified that he was in love with two women and didn’t know what to do. To cover his tracks, Dabate told his wife lies about working late and playing cards with friends. With Ganzer, Dabate continued to insist he was about to file for divorce. Dabate told his buddies that he had gotten Ganzer pregnant during a one-night stand, and told police that she was carrying a child for him and Connie as a surrogate.
Prosecutors argued that Dabate killed Connie because he did not want to lose friends or have his reputation harmed by a divorce. Dabate also worried about the financial implications of splitting from his wife, as well as having to deal with working out custody arrangements for the couple’s two children. He also reportedly said that he feared becoming a “black sheep” in his family. Prosecutors said they discovered evidence that Dabate had also been involved in a second extramarital relationship, but the judge barred that information from the trial.
While testifying in his own defense, Dabate offered a slightly different story than the one he told police. He hadn’t heard the “intruder” as soon as he walked in, but instead said he sat down at his computer and only later did he notice any sort of commotion. Under cross-examination, Dabate didn’t have a good answer when asked why he first told police he had heard one or two gunshots, when there were actually three.
Shortly before Connie was killed, she and Dabate spent a “romantic weekend” together in Vermont, he testified. But when Connie posted photos of the trip on Facebook, Ganzer saw them and realized her lover was not in the midst of divorcing his wife, as he had promised. The only way out for Dabate, prosecutors argued in court, was to get rid of Connie.
Dabate steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the trial. In Connecticut, murder carries a prison term of up to 60 years. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16.