Attorneys for the Dover man accused of stabbing two women to death in Farmington in 2017 allege that state investigators acted in bad faith by failing to turn over evidence they say could have proven their client’s innocence.
Public defender Meredith Lugo said during a hearing Monday on a motion to dismiss the murder charges against Timothy Verrill that police withheld evidence in a reckless and willful manner, severely prejudicing the case against her client.
Verrill is accused of murdering Christine Sullivan, 48, and Jenna Pellegrini, 32, at 979 Meaderboro Road in Farmington on Jan. 27, 2017. He faces counts of first- and second-degree murder and falsifying physical evidence.
Verrill was tried on the charges in October in Strafford County Superior Court, but a mistrial was declared on Nov. 1 after defense counsel revealed that the results of polygraphs conducted on a key witness were not disclosed to them prior to the trial.
In their 85-page motion to dismiss, Lugo and co-counsel Julia Nye argue that dismissal of the charges against Verrill are warranted because the state failed to provide evidence favorable to their client in “reckless disregard of its constitutional obligations.”
Lugo and Nye have previously said that despite video recordings of Verrill being at 979 Meaderboro Road on the night of the murders, it was someone else who killed Sullivan and Pellegrini.
At Monday’s hearing, defense attorneys claimed that Michael Ditroia — who was interviewed by police numerous times during the first two months of the investigation — did not pass a polygraph test in which he was asked if he murdered the two women. Their conclusion was based on an independent review of the polygraph results by an expert hired by the defense. The polygraph was administered by a state police investigator, who deemed that Ditroia had passed the exam. The defense expert, however, came to a different conclusion, finding that Ditroia was not truthful to the question: “Did you kill the two women in Farmington?”
“He did not pass the polygraph,” Lugo said at Monday’s hearing. Had she known that prior to the trial, she and Nye would have prepared differently for the trial, she said.
“We certainly would have both tried much harder to locate and interview Mr. Ditroia and also have talked much more about whether we were going to incorporate him as a culprit into our theory, or adapt our theory to include that possibility,” Lugo testified.
The state has submitted a 65-page objection to the defense team’s motion to dismiss with prejudice.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward wrote in court paperwork that “Although the acknowledged discovery violations in this case have been serious, they were neither willful nor malicious, and were the product of unique and unprecedented negligent oversight rather than systematic dysfunction by either police or prosecutors.”
Ward pointed out that polygraph evidence is inadmissible at trial.
“In terms of practical application, were the defendant to call Ditroia and he denied involvement in the murders, the defendant could neither confront him with the opinion of his retained expert, nor call that expert as a rebuttal witness,” Ward wrote.
“Put another way, the defendant was and is in the very same strategic and tactical position before and after the disclosed polygraph examination at issue.”
The hearing on the motion to dismiss the murder charges against Verrill is expected to take four days.
In addition to first- and second-degree murder charges, Verrill is charged with multiple counts of falsifying physical evidence for his alleged role in cleaning up the crime scene.