VERNON — A man who said he was best friends with Dabate in 2015 testified Monday that Dabate was worried getting divorced could cause him to lose friends and family.
Seth Robertson testified about that conversation, which he said took place during a Halloween party at the Dabates’ home in 2015.
He said Dabate voiced the belief that men are at a disadvantage when divorcing, because women typically get to keep the house and have custody of the kids.
Dabate, 45, told state police that a masked intruder killed his wife, Connie, on Dec. 23, 2015, and also attacked him and tied him up in their Ellington home.
State police and the prosecutor have said Dabate staged his wife’s murder as a home invasion to avoid the fallout of a divorce, as he was expecting a baby with another woman.
Robertson then testified about a conversation he had with Dabate several weeks after Connie was killed. They met at Dabate’s parent’s house, for what he expected was a chance for them to talk through what had happened.
Instead, Robertson said Dabate gave him a basic account of the day Connie died, with the explanation that his lawyers had advised him not to talk about it. Then Dabate began talking about everyday things, like he would have before Connie died, Robertson said.
There wasn’t any of the sadness or anger that he was expecting, Robertson said.
“I showed up with pockets of tissues, and it never happened,” he said.
Robertson said that was the last time he had a meaningful conversation with Dabate.
Under cross-examination, Robertson acknowledged that Dabate had probably already told many others about the events of Connie’s death, and could have been looking to talk about some everyday topics.
Dabate’s cousin, Laurie Gardner, was also called as a witness Monday. Gardner told the jury about a party in the summer of 2015 when Dabate confided in her about Sara Ganzer, the woman who was pregnant with his child.
Gardner said Dabate was worried about what his family members would think when they found out and was worried that he’d be a “black sheep” in the family. At the time, Dabate hadn’t made a decision yet about divorcing Connie, Gardner said.
Gardner also talked about an interaction she had with Dabate the night Connie was killed. She was at her mother’s house, Dabate’s aunt. Dabate came there from the hospital, still dressed in a hospital gown and bloody.
Dabate was distraught, she said.
“He cried a lot. We all did,” Gardner said.
Before the witnesses and jury entered the courtroom, Superior Court Judge Corinne Klatt ruled on multiple motions that will prevent certain evidence from being presented to the jury.
Although the jury won’t be able to hear about it, new information was revealed during the arguments and in court documents filed with the clerk’s office. In particular, prosecutor Matthew Gedansky said he planned to introduce evidence that Dabate misappropriated over $35,000 from his employer in 2015.
Gedansky said Dabate took the money from an account used by his employer and moved it into a different account he opened, and made it seem as if the money was being used for business expenses when it really wasn’t.
He said the state learned of the act approximately three years ago as a result of a search warrant. The employer has never reported the misappropriation to police, he added.
Dabate’s lawyer Trent LaLima argued against that information being allowed in the trial, and Judge Corinne Klatt concluded that it would amount to having a “trial within a trial” and barred it from admission.
Klatt also barred Gedansky from introducing evidence that Dabate took a $20,000 loan from his 401k account in June 2015. That same month Dabate learned the woman with whom he was having an affair was pregnant.
Shortly before the trial was originally set to begin in 2020, Gedansky revealed that investigators had learned of a second extramarital affair Dabate engaged in. Klatt has mostly barred that information from the trial as well. She ruled that when the woman testifies, she can only mention a past relationship and when it ended.
According to a document filed in the clerk’s office, Dabate engaged in the relationship with a woman identified by the initials S.H. for nearly ten months, ending in the spring of 2015.
After the physical relationship ended, Dabate continued to see and communicate with the woman, up to and after his wife Connie was killed, the document states.
LaLima argued that allowing testimony about the relationship would only inflame the jury’s emotions. There isn’t any evidence the affair was ongoing or impacting Dabate’s life at the time his wife was killed, he said.
Gedansky argued that it was up to the jury to decide whether the relationship was a factor or not.
“The point is whether the defendant wanted to stay married to his wife, continue to have extra-marital relationships with other women, and whether he viewed divorce as a viable option,” Gedansky wrote.
Dabate’s trial began April 5, and testimony in the first two weeks largely documented the scene in the Dabates’ Birch View Drive home. Late last week, the woman who was pregnant with Dabate’s child at the time of his wife’s death testified.