The criminal justice system has been revolutionized by advancements in technology and its invaluable contributions to forensic science. These modern tools have significantly improved the accuracy of criminal investigations and cases that would have otherwise gone cold are being solved at a more rapid pace. Electronic devices used to record and store our daily activities, which we often take for granted, are quickly becoming a most important ally to the investigative process.
Connie Dabate’s homicide case is one that proves the immeasurable forensic worth of this technology.
After denying his involvement in her death, a Connecticut man was found guilty of his wife’s murder when investigators saw the data on her Fitbit, a wearable physical fitness monitor. The evidence was overwhelming and Richard Dabate, 45, will be sentenced in September of 2022. He was charged with tampering with evidence, making a false statement, and murder.
He believed his alibi to be rock-solid. However, it began to quickly unravel thanks to everyday technology.
Thirty-year-old Connie Dabate was murdered in her Ellington, Connecticut home only two days before Christmas 2015. She was killed with a gun her husband owned and had purchased months earlier without her knowledge.
According to Dabate, on the 23rd of December, an intruder entered the couple’s home around 9 a.m. He described the suspect as a large, 6'2" male with a deep voice similar to that of movie actor Vin Diesel. He also said the man was wearing a mask and full camouflage.
After tying Dabate to a folding chair, the intruder began torturing him with a blowtorch. That’s when he claimed his wife, Connie, arrived home after her fitness class was unexpectedly canceled. When she walked in and saw what was going on, she tried to escape to the basement, but the masked man followed her downstairs and shot her to death.
Dabate claims he was able to activate the home alarm system and alert police at around 10:11 a.m.
Investigators gathered evidence from multiple sources in this case, including the home computers, the couple’s cell phones, and the home alarm system.
But the most crucial evidence came from Connie’s own Fitbit tracker.
The Fitbit recorded Connie active and alive in the home an hour past the time her husband claims the intruder had murdered her.
When giving his account of events to the police, Dabate said he dropped his two young sons off at the bus stop for school. Then he went back home to retrieve his work shirt and left again at 8:30 a.m. He said his wife was getting herself ready for a fitness class when he left the house.
Richard Dabate’s commute to work was 40-minutes in duration. He told investigators that sometime during his drive to the office, he realized he had forgotten his laptop, so he turned around. When he returned home, he said his phone alerted him to an intruder in the home. That’s when the masked, gloved man strapped him to a chair and started torturing him and stabbing him with a boxcutter.
Dabate said he heard his wife come home and he told her to run. After shooting Connie in the basement, the perpetrator left.
But the evidence in this case didn’t back up his story.
The medical examiner completed the autopsy the following day and found that she had been shot in the abdomen from the front, entering from right to left. A second gunshot wound was found in the back of the victim’s head, with a slight upward trajectory. The headshot would have been instantly fatal.
Dabate sustained only minor injuries from the torture inflicted upon him by the so-called masked intruder. GPS data from his cellphone pinpointed 60 coordinates that morning, all within close proximately of the Dabate home. This suggested that he never left for work as he had told investigators.
Minute particles of gunshot residue were found on Dabate’s hand, pants, and shirt sleeve by the forensic examiner. Dabate’s blood was found on the basement floor from a cut he had on his finger. It looked as if he had spread blood around on the floor of the kitchen before lying down and waiting for the first responders to arrive.
A 9-pound folding chair was lying on top of him.
Authorities could find no evidence of an intruder ever being in the home. Several neighbors were interviewed by police, but none of them had seen a large man in camouflage in the neighborhood that morning.
Police K9 units searched the home and surrounding areas for the scent of an intruder, but none was found. Two separate K9 handlers testified that there was no exit trail leaving the Dabate home.
According to the home computer records, Dabate logged in at 9:01 a.m. and emailed his supervisor to let him know the security alarm had gone off.
On the 23rd of December at 7:52 a.m. Connie’s Fitbit recorded a period of inactivity. This is when investigators believe she was driving to her spin class at the YMCA. Her arrival was confirmed by the security camera at the YMCA. She made it back home at 9:20 a.m. and another period of inactivity was recorded starting at 9:37 a.m. while she was posting videos on her Facebook page.
Data shows she was active for approximately 20 minutes and her level of activity was considered regular, routine movement. According to the data, Connie walked 1,217 feet between 9:18 and 10:05 a.m., contradicting her husband’s claim that she was killed during this time.
Her final movement registered on the device was at 10:05 a.m.
What truth her Fitbit revealed was that Connie was alive for over an hour after her husband said she had been shot to death.
The electronic trail left behind by the computer and Fitbit didn’t match Dabate’s story of what happened that morning. There was no indication that his wife was running for her life or trying to escape anyone. Her movements were calm and routine.
Richard Dabate was finally arrested for her murder in April 2017 but released on bail in the amount of 1 million dollars. His trial didn’t begin until 2022.
He took the stand in his own defense, testifying that he came home that morning and found the masked man hiding in the closet and that he was innocent of murder.
Dabate was having an affair with another woman, and she was pregnant with his child. When questioned by investigators, the woman confirmed this and said she was due to give birth to the baby only eight weeks after Connie’s murder.
Sara Ganzer, his pregnant mistress, testified that she gave him several ultimatums demanding that he make up his mind to stay with her or break up. She was seven months pregnant at the time of Connie’s murder. Ganzer had met Dabate in junior high school. They reconnected in May 2015 and began a sexual relationship. Only a month later, she was pregnant with his child.
Dabate insisted he was in love with two women at the same time, but he was innocent of Connie’s murder. He lied to his wife, telling her he was working late or hanging out with friends when he was really spending time with Ganzer.
He told Ganzer he was in the process of filing for a divorce and could be with her and the baby soon. When she saw the photos Connie had posted on her Facebook page of the couple’s recent romantic retreat, she realized he had lied to her.
Prosecutors alleged Dabate had staged the entire thing to avoid having to divorce his wife. They believe the motive for the murder was his mistress and their baby. Connie was in the way of this new life that was about to begin.
It took the jury only three hours to find him guilty on all counts. He will be sentenced on September 16th, 2022. The defense argued that data from the Fitbit device is unreliable and cannot be used to prove murder. His attorney is planning to appeal the conviction.