Judge Blawie ruled there is probable cause to try John Heath for the 1984 murder of his wife Elizabeth Heath. John Heath had reported Elizabeth missing on April 6, 1984. Heath’s family had Elizabeth declared dead in 1991. Elizabeth’s remains were found two years ago during a home renovation by new owners of the property at 89 Poverty Hollow Road where the couple used to live.
“Even though the case against the 68-year-old, retired house painter is entirely circumstantial, Heath’s own words, combined with items investigators recovered from the dry well where the body lay hidden for 26 years, provided probable cause to charge him with the crime and allow the case to go forward, Judge John Blawie said.”
Heath is represented by Frank O’Reilly. “There is no evidence that ties my client to the death of Elizabeth Heath,” O’Reilly said in court.
“But Blawie said there was enough circumstantial evidence for a finding of probable cause, a far lesser standard than the proof beyond a reasonable doubt necessary to convict him at trial.
“The defendant’s own statements to police were that he last saw (her) before they went to bed. There was bedding from the bedroom when her body was found so many years later,” Blawie said. “The court finds probable cause that the defendant did commit the crime of murder and the case can proceed.”
Under state law, probable cause hearings are necessary when a defendant is charged with a crime carrying a potential life sentence.”
Frank O’Reilly had been named special public defender for Heath, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran and retired painting contractor. He replaces Miles Gerety, head of the public defender’s office in Danbury, who had to step aside because of a conflict of interest. None of the other public defenders in Danbury could represent Heath, Gerety said, because two members of his investigative staff worked on the Heath case when they were detectives in Newtown.
Decades ago, a Deputy Sheriff served Mary Elizabeth Gough Heath divorce papers. That same day, Elizabeth hired a local lawyer to represent her in the divorce case of John S. Heath vs. Mary E. Heath. The following Monday, Heath was missing.
Newtown police Detective Joseph Joudy testified that when police informed John Heath in April 2010 that Elizabeth’s skeletal remains had been found, Heath had an animated physical reaction to the news. After being told that the skeletal evidence indicated that Elizabeth had a broken arm, Heath made a motion with his two hands which simulated a smashing action, Det Joudy testified.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit in the case, “On April 15, 2010, police informed John that it appears that Elizabeth had a broken forearm and that the bone was smashed. John then replied, ‘Smashed like a…’ John never finished the sentence, and as he said ‘Smashed,’ he raised both of his arms and, as if he was holding something, moved his arms in a downward motion.”
After checking the skeletal remains of Elizabeth, the medical examiner said the skeleton’s broken left forearm was consistent with an assault against her having occurred. Chief State Medical Examiner Wayne Carver, MD, established the cause of the homicidal death as blunt force traumatic head injuries as indicated by multiple skull fractures. Elizabeth was ultimately identified by comparisson to her dental charts.
Following the judge’s ruling, Heath once again entered a not guilty plea to the murder charge. He remains in custody on $1 million bond and is due back in court on Sept. 7, 2012.
To be continued!