DANBURY – A man who was incarcerated in the Bridgeport Correctional Center with accused murderer John Heath told a 12-member jury in Danbury Superior Court on October 8 that Mr Heath, 70, in January had matter-of-factly told him that he had murdered his wife Elizabeth, 32, in April 1984 at their Poverty Hollow Road property in Newtown.
Craig Rosenoch, 40, was the second person to have testified in court that Mr Heath had admitted to killing his wife.
On October 3, prison inmate Joseph Williams, 31, testified that in January, Mr Heath had told him he had killed his wife.
As he had with Mr Williams’ claims, attorney Francis O’Reilly, who is Mr Heath’s special public defender, aggressively challenged Mr Rosenoch’s claims.
Under questioning by Supervising Assistant State’s Attorney Warren Murray, who is the prosecutor, Mr Rosenoch acknowledged that he has a criminal conviction record and has multiple charges pending against him in court.
Mr Rosenoch, who is free on $30,000 bail, has seven criminal charges pending against him, including burglary, larceny, escape, and attempting to interfere with police. Arrests in those cases were made by Shelton and Stratford police. Mr Rosenoch has been convicted on eight criminal charges since 2004.
Mr Rosenoch said that he has not been promised anything for testifying in court against Mr Heath, adding that he does expect to receive anything in return for his testimony.
Mr Rosenoch said he encountered Mr Heath in January while they were both incarcerated. They both had the same daily one-hour recreational period and had some conversations, Mr Rosenoch said.
“He was always nice, always friendly,” but he was “temperamental”, Mr Rosenoch said of Mr Heath.
“He (Heath) said he was in (jail) for a ‘cold case,’” Mr Rosenoch said.
During a conversation, Mr Heath rapidly and matter-of-factly said that his wife “wanted to take everything from him,” concerning the work which he had done at the Poverty Hollow Road property, so he killed her, Mr Rosenoch testified.
The Heaths were in the midst of a divorce when Mr Heath reported Ms Heath as missing to police in April 1984.
In April 2010, the current owners of 89 Poverty Hollow Road, while renovating an apartment in a barn there, discovered the skeletal remains of Elizabeth Heath stuffed into a drywell located beneath the floor. In 2005, John Heath and his current wife Raquel lost that property in a foreclosure.
In April 2012, Newtown police arrested Mr Heath on a murder charge, alleging that he beat his wife to death and then hid her body in the dry well. He has been held on $1 million bail since his arrest.
In court, Mr Rosenoch testified that Mr Heath told him that he reported his wife as missing to police after he had killed her. Mr Rosenoch added that he had not heard about the murder case before Mr Heath had mentioned it to him.
Mr Rosenoch said he later provided a statement to detectives who were investigating the death, informing them of what Mr Heath had told him.
The witness told the prosecutor that he is now in a drug-treatment program in order to deal with his drug addiction and straighten out his life.
In cross-examination, Mr Reilly displayed a mug shot of Mr Rosenoch taken after he had been arrested late last year.
Mr Reilly said Mr Rosenoch is addicted to painkillers, a charge which the witness acknowledged.
The defense lawyer added that Mr Rosenoch has multiple pending criminal charges.
Mr Reilly said that Mr Rosenoch saw Mr Heath as a frail old man in a wheelchair who, in effect, presented him with an opportunity to “get out of jail” by talking about what Mr Heath had allegedly said to him.
Mr Reilly added that the playing cards which inmates use in jail have contact information on them for the state’s “Tip Line” program, through which inmates provide tips to detectives who are investigating criminal cases.
The defense attorney said that Mr Rosenoch is a “sick person” who steals from people to support his drug habit.
“You’re looking for a benefit from the state because you’re here (testifying),” Mr O’Reilly said, noting that there are criminal charges pending against Mr Rosenoch.
“Not true,” Mr Rosenoch responded.
Also on October 8, other witnesses testified, focusing on the forensics aspects of the police investigation into Ms Heath’s murder.
That testimony concerned both evidence which was seized at the Poverty Hollow Road barn where Ms Heath’s skeletal remains were discovered in mid-April 2010, and the evidence seized by police about two weeks later at the Bridgewater home occupied by John and Raquel Heath. The couple married in 1985.
Testimony in the trial slated to resume on Wednesday, October 9.