Jailhouse informant's quest for reward stumps court
For more than a decade, posters depicting Renee Pellegrino, a long-haired brunette who was fatally strangled in Waterford in June 1997, hung in police departments and other locations throughout southeastern Connecticut.
In 1999, Gov. John G. Rowland authorized a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her killer. This spring, a jury convicted Dickie E. Anderson Jr. of New London of murder. He was sentenced in July to 60 years in prison.
Now Anderson's former prison cellmate, 46-year-old Arthur Moore of New Haven, is attempting to collect the reward. At a hearing Thursday, Superior Court Judge Arthur C. Hadden said the request might be premature since the case is under appeal. He continued the hearing so that Moore's attorney, W. Martyn Philpot Jr. of New Haven, could conduct more research.
Moore left the courthouse Thursday with his fiancee and the hope that he would one day collect the reward.
"He has nothing to lose," Philpot said.
The state occasionally offers rewards in murder cases that go unresolved, but for many in the court system, including the senior state's attorneys who prosecuted Anderson, the process of distributing the cash incentives is far from routine.
State law says only that the reward "should be ordered by order of the court (judge) before which such conviction is had."
"To be perfectly candid with the court, I've never seen a hearing like this before," prosecutor Stephen M. Carney said in court Thursday. Carney tried the Anderson case along with his colleague, David J. Smith.
To the disappointment of Moore's attorney, Carney said that the state's attorney's office is taking a neutral position on the request.
"I'm not sure that I'm representing the state either as an advocate for the reward or in an adversarial manner," Carney said.
Philpot said later that he had been under the impression that the state's attorneys were supporting the request.
Anderson's trial attorneys, John T. Walkley and Christopher Duby, attended the hearing but said little. Duby did note on the record that he would recommend getting the state attorney general and the Department of Administrative Services involved in the matter. He said later that Administrative Services is the state agency that places liens on the assets of former prison inmates to cover the costs of their incarceration.
Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane, who was New London's state's attorney when Pellegrino was killed and who sought the reward from then-Gov. Rowland, could not immediately be reached to comment Thursday.
Moore, who has spent half of his adult life in prison, has 11 felony convictions, some of them for drugs and weapons. He is not currently incarcerated but has two cases pending, one for third-degree assault and one for breach of peace, both in New Haven.
While incarcerated with Anderson in 2009 at the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Moore was approached by a Department of Correction official who asked him to try to elicit incriminating information from Anderson, a suspect in the Pellegrino murder. At the time, Anderson was serving a yearlong prison sentence for the attempted strangulation and unlawful restraint of his then-girlfriend.
Moore testified at Anderson's double murder trial in March that Anderson admitted killing Pellegrino in 1997 and Michelle Comeau in 1998. The jury convicted Anderson of the Pellegrino murder but was unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the case of Comeau, who also had been strangled.
At Thursday's hearing, Moore returned to the witness stand and repeated parts of his story in an effort to convince the judge that he should receive the cash reward. Rowland initially authorized a $10,000 reward, but the state sought the increased amount when the case remained unsolved after two years.
Moore said Anderson told him police were trying to build a case against him for a murder.
"He said, 'They're trying to get me for this chick,'" Moore testified. "He said, 'I murdered this chick.'"
When Moore went to correction officials with the information, they installed a recording device in the cell at the request of state police. The device recorded 12½ hours of conversation between Moore and Anderson but did not capture a confession.
The Pellegrino investigation had long grown cold when, in 2008, police were notified that a DNA sample taken from Anderson when he was convicted in an unrelated strangulation case matched DNA from a vaginal swab taken from Pellegrino.
The newly discovered physical evidence revived the investigation. Police interviewed Anderson, who eventually admitted he had had sex with Pellegrino the night she was killed but he did not confess to killing her.
Police approached Anderson's longtime girlfriend, Toni Wilson, who told them that Anderson had started crying one night in 1998 and had admitted taht he had "hooked up" with a prostitute one night and killed her after she had demanded money.
Wilson testified at the Anderson trial but is not seeking the reward.