The upcoming murder trial of Dickie E. Anderson Jr. was previewed today as Judge Arthur C. Hadden listened to oral arguments on pretrial motions and issued a flurry of rulings in New London Superior Court.
Anderson, 41, is going on trial beginning Tuesday for the strangling deaths of Renee Pellegrino in 1997 and Michelle Comeau in 1998. Anderson, who lived in the New London and Norwich area, knew both of the women, both of whom had struggled with crack cocaine addictions and had worked as prostitutes.
Pellegrino's body was discovered on June 25, 1997, at the dead-end of Parkway South in Waterford, not far from New London city limits. In May 1998, police found Comeau's body dumped along an access road to the Norwich Industrial Park near the Norwich-Franklin town line.
The judge ruled that the jury would be allowed to hear testimony from a state medical examiner who says that the two homicides appeared to have been committed in a similar manner, and that the 2002 murder of a third woman, Hope Becker, was committed in a dissimilar manner. The defense is expected to attempt to implicate Becker's convicted killer, Clifford Gilliland, for the Pellegrino and Comeau murders.
Hadden also ruled that the trial would start on schedule Tuesday even though the defense claimed the state was late in disclosing new information that potentially could benefit Anderson. The information involved a man's Feb. 23, 2012, statement to police that his late father had implicated somebody other than Anderson in the Pellegrino killing. The man said his father had told him the killer was the father of Pellegrino's unborn child, and that Pellegrino had been trying to blackmail him.
The defense had sought a delay to investigate the claim, while the state argued it had disclosed information about the suspect in several documents. The man who allegedly fathered Pellegrino's child had been interviewed and cleared by police after providing an alibi. The judge ruled that the information had been turned over to the defense some time ago and that in any case, the latest report contains "totem pole hearsay," where one person relays information to another person, who tells it to somebody else.
Hadden also ruled that the state legally obtained a recorded conversation between Anderson and a jailhouse informant who was placed in his prison cell while he was being held at Osborn Correctional Institution for an unrelated crime in 2009. Though the defense claimed the secret recording had violated Anderson's Miranda rights, the judge ruled the recording admissible since Anderson was in custody when the recording was made.
In his first ruling for the defense, Hadden said the state would not be allowed to introduce information about Anderson's prior misconduct, which includes three incidents in which Anderson allegedly strangled women. Prosecutor David J. Smith said he had been prepared to call witnesses to testify about incidents involving a prostitute that Anderson picked up in 2002, a domestic incident in 2008 with one woman, and an altercation in 2000 or 2001, in which he allegedly strangled his longtime girlfriend until she lost consciousness. The judge ruled that introducing the incidents to the jury would be unduly prejudicial to Anderson.
When the trial begins Tuesday, the state is expected to set the scene for the jury by calling to the witness stand police who responded to the Pellegrino and Comeau crime scenes.