DANBURY — While cleaning out a decayed efficiency apartment in a barn at a Poverty Hollow Road property in Newtown in April 2010, Jordan Wright of Redding made a grisly discovery — the skeletal remains of a woman who had formerly lived at that property and who had been reported missing to police by her husband 26 years earlier.
Mr Wright, who owns the 89 Poverty Hollow Road property with his parents, told an eight-man, four-woman jury in Danbury Superior Court that to be certain his suspicions were correct, he contacted his father, Kenneth, who is a physician, who then confirmed that a large bone that had been uncovered was a human femur or thighbone.
Jordan Wright was one of five witnesses who spoke on Thursday, September 27, during the first day of testimony at the murder trial of John Heath, 70, of Bridgewater.
The state alleges that Mr Heath murdered his wife Elizabeth, 32, in April 1984 and then wrapped her body in bedding, hiding it within a compact drywell located beneath the floor of a barn at the residential property where they then lived.
Following a two-year investigation, in April 2012, Newtown police charged Mr Heath with murder in the death of his wife. He maintains his innocence. Since his arraignment, he has been held on $1 million bail on the murder charge.
Supervising Assistant State’s Attorney Warren Murray is the prosecutor, and attorney Francis O’Reilly is Mr Heath’s special public defender. Judge Robin Pavia is presiding.
In testimony, Robert Tvardzik, a former Newtown police detective, told Mr Murray that on April 6, 1984, Mr Heath came to the Newtown police station to report that Ms Heath had disappeared.
“He told me that his wife had not been seen since April 1,” Mr Tvardzik said. Mr Heath provided police with a description of his wife and said that she had taken $600 with her, but had not taken any additional clothing or her vehicle, Mr Tvardzik said.
Also, Mr Heath told police that he had filed for divorce against his wife two months earlier, adding that she had emotional problems and also a history of substance abuse, Mr Tvardzik testified. At the time, the Heaths had a 4-year-old daughter.
Mr Heath told police that his wife had left home voluntarily and that he wanted police to locate her, Mr Tvardzik said.
The former police detective explained the steps that police took in seeking to find Ms Heath.
Richard Stook, a former Newtown police detective, testified that in 1990, he resumed the police probe into Ms Heath’s disappearance, which was then considered a “cold case.”
Mr Stook told the prosecutor that he called Mr Heath as part of his review of the investigation, and Mr Heath was not helpful.
“Mr Heath was less than cooperative,” Mr Stook said, adding that the defendant asked him why he was resuming the police probe.
“He showed no concern, whatsoever,” Mr Stook explained.
State police Detective Karoline Keith testified that state police investigated at 89 Poverty Hollow Road on April 14, 15, and 16, 2010, documenting the scene and collecting evidence after the skeletal remains had been found. Newtown police had called in the state police’s Western District Major Crime Squad for aid in the probe.
Police uncovered the decomposing skeletal remains of Ms Heath wrapped in bedding that had been placed in garbage bags positioned inside the drywell, Det Keith said. Also found were Ms Heath’s personal effects including clothing and jewelry.
In questioning Ms Keith, Mr O’Reilly, representing Mr Heath, observed that it likely would have taken much force to jam the corpse of Ms Heath into the compact drywell, considering the drywell’s small dimensions.
Ms Keith responded that she has seen corpses jammed into smaller spaces.
Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume on October 1. The trial is expected to run for several weeks.