DOVER — Defense attorneys for Timothy Verrill argued during his double-murder trial Tuesday that he was not the person who brutally killed two women in Farmington, while prosecutors said that public defenders were creating a “boogeyman” to get their client off.
Verrill, 37, of Dover, is accused of stabbing and using blunt force to kill Christine Sullivan, 48, of Farmington, inside the home she shared with convicted drug dealer Dean Smoronk at 979 Meaderboro Road.
Sullivan was killed in the kitchen of that home on Jan. 27, 2017. She was last seen alive about 4 a.m. that day on surveillance video from the home’s three-season porch.
The second woman killed, Jenna Pellegrini, 32, of Barrington, was asleep or unconscious inside a spare bedroom when Verrill allegedly stabbed her 43 times. Pellegrini was staying with Sullivan while Smoronk was checking on a rental property in Cape Coral, Fla.; she was last seen alive on video surveillance doing laundry at 6:40 a.m. on Jan. 27.
Assistant Attorney General Jesse O’Neill called the murders “emotional” and “passionate” during his opening statements, saying the evidence will show in this case that Verrill was the only person at the house with Sullivan and Pellegrini on the night in question, and that he was the one who locked the door prior to committing the killings.
Public defender Julia Nye started her opening statements by talking about the DNA found under Sullivan’s ring, under her fingernails and blood found on the ceiling in the kitchen.
“The killer’s DNA on the ceiling is not Tim’s DNA. Christine clawed at the killer, leaving the killer’s DNA under her fingernails. That DNA is not Tim’s. Tim Verrill did not kill either of these women. He was not asked to, not encouraged to, not taken advantage of. He is not guilty,” Nye said.
Nye and fellow public defender Meredith Lugo argue that Smoronk hired someone other than Verrill to kill Sullivan. They say Pellegrini was not a specific target, even though she was stabbed more times than Sullivan.
Smoronk wanted Sullivan out of his house and life because he wanted to expand his drug-dealing business, Nye said, and was courting a local motorcycle club to help increase distribution in New Hampshire.
Nye told jurors that recordings from Alexa show Verrill was, indeed, hanging out at Smoronk’s house prior to Sullivan and Pellegrini being killed. But she said that was not unusual, considering Verrill was involved in the cocaine and crystal meth business and had lived at the house at one point in time.
The evidence from Alexa captured lighthearted moments between two associates, Nye said. Verrill was requesting songs and Sullivan was shouting out silly questions such as, “Alexa, are you ignoring me?”
Nye told jurors that Smoronk’s own behavior shows he was in on the killings because he called police to report a homicide before even finding the bodies.
That call to police happened when Smoronk returned home from Florida in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2017. Evidence shows he sent out a flurry of text messages and called his other girlfriend, Vanessa Mango, prior to contacting law enforcement.
Mango, of Fort Myers, Fla., was the state’s first witness on Tuesday. She said in addition to the phone call, she received a text message from Smoronk which said, “It’s very sad. A double homicide of two unsuspecting women.”
Mango, who dated Smoronk when he was in Florida knowing he was also in a relationship with Sullivan, told the jury she was with him while he was in Florida checking on the Cape Coral property. Records show they rented a hotel room at Allure Suites in Fort Myers.
Prosecutors say Smoronk was genuinely concerned about Sullivan’s well-being, despite their abusive relationship. He believed something was wrong after hearing from friend Joshua Colwell on Jan. 27.
Mango said Smoronk was trying to access the video surveillance system at the Farmington home from his cellphone but could not. Prosecutors say that is because Verrill cut access to the surveillance video prior to the killings.
It is still not clear whether Smoronk will testify during the double-murder trial. He is being held in a state jail on federal drug charges and is on both the prosecution and defense’s witness list.
Verrill is facing two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and five counts of falsifying physical evidence. If he is convicted of first-degree murder, it is mandatory under state law that he spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.