Dionne's wife testifies at Old Lyme sexual assault trial

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Summer Dionne testified Wednesday at her husband's sexual assault trial that she found out on the same day in November 2017 that he was accused of molesting a close friend of their daughter and was having an affair with the child's mother.

"It was a hard day," said Mrs. Dionne, mother of Christopher Dionne's two children, when she took the witness stand as the defense portion of the trial began in New London Superior Court.

Christopher Dionne, 37, of Old Lyme is charged with touching the 10-year-old girl's buttocks and breasts beneath her pajamas during a sleepover Nov. 26, 2017, at his 4 Village Lane home. The girl testified Monday that he also asked if she wanted to perform a sexual act. He has pleaded not guilty to risk of injury to a minor, turned down the state's offer to resolve the case by pleading guilty to a lesser charge and opted for a trial by jury.

Summer Dionne testified under direct examination by her husband's attorney, Michael C. Dwyer, that she works as a correction officer and at a group home for adolescents and is inclined to believe children when they disclose they have been abused. But she said the allegation against her husband is false.

She testified that her husband's affair with the child's mother was not just a "sexting relationship," as described by the mother on the witness stand earlier this week. She said her husband told her it was a physical affair after she asked him why he had deleted texts from his phone that showed the mother continued to text him even after the child claimed he'd molested her.

"He said, 'I've been texting (the mother)," the wife testified. "'I've been sending pictures to her. We've been having a sexual relationship.'"

The Department of Children and Families came to her home to investigate following the child's disclosure and once again after another issue involving the same family arose, Summer Dionne testified. The accusation also put an end to the television career her husband was pursuing. He had appeared with his identical twin brother on an episode of HGTV's "Family Flip." They were taping a show called "House Rescue" for A&E,  but it was suspended due to his arrest.

"His brother and he had worked tireless to get this TV show off the ground," she testified. "It wasn't like he was a TV star like they (the media) made him out to be. He had done one pilot. It didn't go anywhere, and they were starting over."

She also testified that the twin, Michael, who lives in California, visited their home often and had slept on the living room couch where Christopher Dionne allegedly molested the child. The jury heard testimony from a DNA expert Tuesday that the only people who have the exact same DNA profiles are identical twins. The forensic examiner testified that Christopher Dionne's DNA was "likely present" in swabbings taken from the back and front waistband of the cheetah print pajama shorts the girl was wearing that night.

Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman asked Summer Dionne under cross-examination about the wife's text messages to Christopher Dionne while he was working in California after the molestation allegation. Ferryman asked her whether she was trying to find a defense for her husband by hiring an expert to look into the alleged victim's school and psychological records.

"I felt maybe if we knew what she was going through, that would provide insight," Summer Dionne said.

The defense plans to call at least two more witnesses when the trial resumes Thursday, according to Dwyer. It is unclear whether Christopher Dionne will testify. The attorneys then will deliver closing arguments and a six-member jury will begin deliberations after receiving instruction from Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed.

k.florin@theday.com

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