DANBURY – A half-sister of John Heath, who had worked with him as a commercial painter, testified in court on Tuesday, October 1, that she told him that she smelled “something that was dead” in the barn on his property at 89 Poverty Hollow Road in Newtown, at some point not long after Mr Heath had allegedly murdered his wife Elizabeth in April 1984, hiding her body in a drywell beneath the barn’s floor.
Louann Chevalier testified in Danbury Superior Court on the second day of the murder trial that Mr Heath responded that maybe there was something dead in the barn, perhaps wildlife, such as a bat.
Ms Chevalier was subpoenaed as a witness by the state in its prosecution of Mr Heath, 70, of Bridgewater, who is accused of murdering his wife Elizabeth when she was 32.
Mr Heath had reported his wife as missing to police on April 6, 1984, several days after he allegedly murdered her. The couple was in the midst of a divorce at the time, with Mr Heath having filed divorce papers about two months earlier against his wife of six years.
Ms Heath’s skeletal remains were discovered hidden in the barn in April 2010, by the property’s current owners who were renovating an efficiency apartment in the structure. Newtown police arrested Mr Heath on the murder charge in April 2012. The handicapped Mr Heath, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held on $1 million bail.
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.
Ms Chevalier testified that Ms Heath was a good mother to her young daughter, Meaghann.
Ms Chevalier said that Mr Heath’s current wife, Raquel, sometimes served as a babysitter for Meaghann when the Heaths went out to socialize.
Both Raquel Heath and Meaghann were present as spectators in the courtroom on October 1. Meaghann is now in her 30s.
Ms Chevalier said that after Ms Heath had been reported as missing, Mr Heath approached her and said he wanted to marry Raquel, but Ms Chevalier responded that Mr Heath should wait because the missing Elizabeth might return home to 89 Poverty Hollow Road.
Defense Points To Another Suspect
Also subpoenaed by the state as a witness was Patricia Heath, another half-sister of Mr Heath.
Under questioning by Mr O’Reilly, Patricia Heath said that the reason that John Heath’s mother divorced his father, Chester, was because Chester was a child molester. Chester Heath is deceased.
Ms Chevalier said that Chester Heath had served a prison sentence stemming from a child molestation charge.
Mr O’Reilly said that Ms Chevalier told Newtown police during an interview that she believed that Chester Heath had killed Elizabeth Heath.
Mr Murray objected to that claim, which Judge Pavia sustained, ordering the 12-member jury to ignore that allegation.
Detective Raymond Insalaco of the state police, who was a witness for the prosecution, explained that after Ms Heath’s skeletal remains were found at 89 Poverty Hollow Road in April, 2010, police sought and received three search/seizure warrants for 5 Keeler Road in Bridgewater, where John and Raquel Heath then lived.
Newtown police had called in state police to aid in the investigation after the skeletal remains were found.
Newtown police Detective Joseph Joudy explained that Newtown police included as evidence in their investigation a Heath family photo which pictured bedding which was similar to the bedding in which Ms Heath’s remains were wrapped when they were discovered.
Det Insalaco had provided that photo to Newtown police after receiving it from a Heath family friend.
State police Detective Daniel Jewiss provided audio recordings of interviews which he and Det Joudy had conducted with John and Raquel Heath at the Heath’s Bridgewater residence shortly after Ms Heath’s remains were found.
The detectives told the Heaths that they were following up on the long-running missing person investigation, but did not initially inform them that the skeletal remains had been uncovered in the Poverty Hollow Road barn. The lengthy, distorted, apparently surreptitious recordings have poor sound quality.
According to the recordings, Mr Heath told the police that Elizabeth Heath had a history of running away.
In the recordings, Mr Heath told police that he woke up one morning in April 1984, and his wife was missing, having left their property. She had not taken her auto, he said. He told police that he assumed that she had run off with another man who had driven her away.
“She wasn’t there and I didn’t understand why she wasn’t there,” Mr Heath told police. He added that he made a number of phone calls in seeking to locate her before reporting her as missing to police.
Testimony in the trial is slated to resume on October 2.