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The mother of two of Dickie E. Anderson Jr.'s children avoided his gaze Wednesday as she testified in a New London courtroom that he had told her in 1998 that he had killed a woman in Bates Woods Park.
Toni Wilson appeared to be crying and shielding her view of Anderson with her long blond hair as she told her story to the jury at Anderson's murder trial in Superior Court.
Anderson, 41, is accused of fatally strangling Renee Pellegrino in 1997 and Michelle Comeau in 1998.
Wilson said she'd started dating Anderson when they both worked in the mail room at The Day in 1997. They moved into an apartment on Anthony Road in 1998, she said. One night he started crying, and she asked him what was wrong.
"He started crying and said he didn't want to go back to jail," she said. "He did something bad."
Anderson told her he had "hooked up" with a girl who demanded money after they had sex, Wilson said. Anderson said he didn't want to give her money and that he pushed her down and hit her.
"He told me that he killed her," Wilson testified. "She wasn't moving."
Wilson, who has since ended the relationship, did not tell her story until investigators approached her in 2008 after DNA tests revealed Anderson's sperm on Pellegrino's body. She said she didn't believe that Anderson had killed someone, and that she was afraid of him because he was physically and verbally abusive.
Wilson admitted during cross-examination that she had posted something on her Facebook page about a reward in the case.
Also Wednesday, Dr. Edward T. McDonough, who performed autopsies on both victims, testified that in more than 25 years as a medical examiner, the Pellegrino and Comeau cases are the only two he can recall in which the victims had been strangled both manually and with a ligature.
McDonough, who was the state's deputy chief medical examiner for 20 years but has since retired and taken a job in Delaware, described linear patterns on the necks of both women that suggested someone had used a ligature — something that was wrapped around the neck to cut off the blood supply to the brain. McDonough also described neck bruising that indicates that both women also were strangled by hands.
Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney asked the doctor how common it is to see victims of both types of strangulation.
"In my experience, it's not common at all," McDonough responded. "It's usually one or the other. These are about the only two cases I can recall off the top of my head."
Pellegrino, 41, and Comeau, 29, had both been working as prostitutes at the time of their deaths. Both were left nude on remote stretches of roadway, and McDonough testified that both had cocaine their blood streams.
McDonough went to the scene when Pellegrino's body was discovered on June 25, 1997, on a cul-de-sac at Parkway South in Waterford. He said Pellegrino's body appeared to have been posed, with her arms outstretched, her legs spread and bent at the knees and the soles of her feet together. The symmetry in which the body had been placed appears to be a "statement," he said. He characterized posing as uncommon and said it did not appear Pellegrino had been "dumped" out of a vehicle.
A state trooper who was called to Comeau's crime scene on New Park Avenue in Franklin on May 1, 1998, took a photograph of her with her arms outstretched similarly before medical professionals moved her body while attempting to resuscitate her. Comeau was pronounced dead within nine minutes of her arrival at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.
"In my opinion, more likely than not, she was actually dead at the scene, and out of valor and humanity, they tried to resuscitate her," McDonough testified.
Also Wednesday, Detective David Lamoureux from the Eastern District Major Crime Squad testified about linking the two homicides after the Waterford police received word of the DNA match in the Pellegrino case. When he learned that the person's name was Dickie Anderson Jr., Lamoureux said, he recalled reading statements in the Comeau file from Anderson's father, Dickie Anderson Sr. Comeau was staying at Anderson Sr.'s apartment on Franklin Avenue around the time of her death.
In August 2008, Lamoureux went to the Osborn Correctional Institution, where Anderson was serving time for an unrelated crime, to interview him with Inspector Michael Hurley from the State's Attorney's Office and Detective Sgt. Joseph DePasquale of Waterford police.
The jury listened to a recording of the interview, during which Anderson denied knowing Pellegrino before he was confronted with the DNA evidence.
"It took us a long time to get to you, but we're here," Hurley, who had investigated the Pellegrino case as a Waterford detective, said on the recording.
Anderson changed his story and admitted he had had sex with Pellegrino that night, but continued to say he had not killed her. The jury will continue listening to the recording when the trial resumes today.