DANBURY – A state prison inmate testified at the murder trial of John Heath on October 3 that while they were both incarcerated at the Bridgeport Correctional Center in January, Mr Heath told him that he had killed his wife in 1984 and then hid her remains inside a drainage structure at the Heath property at 89 Poverty Hollow Road in Newtown.
Mr Heath is being held on bail and maintains his innocence.
Inmate Joseph J. Williams, 31, who is serving a three-year prison sentence on a violation of probation conviction stemming from a drug offense, told a 12-member jury in Danbury Superior Court that Mr Heath, 70, had told him he expected that he would be found “not guilty” at trial on his murder charge.
Mr Williams was one of the witnesses who testified on the fourth day of the trial at the White Street courthouse.
Mr Heath’s defense lawyer aggressively challenged Mr Williams’ claims.
Newtown police arrested Mr Heath of Bridgewater on a murder charge in April 2012 in connection with the April 1984 death of his wife Elizabeth, who was then 32.
Police allege that Mr Heath beat his wife to death and then stuffed her remains into a dry well located beneath the floor of a barn at 89 Poverty Hollow Road.
Mr Heath reported Ms Heath as missing to Newtown police several days after her April 1, 1984, disappearance. Mr Heath had filed for divorce against his wife about two months earlier.
In court on October 3, Mr Williams said that he and Mr Heath had come into contact with one another during recreation periods at the prison, during which time Mr Heath confessed to having killed his wife.
Mr Williams said that Mr Heath told him that Ms Heath’s remains were found by the property’s current owners in the dry well in 2010.
Mr Williams said Mr Heath also told another prison inmate that he had killed his wife. That inmate also is expected to testify in court.
Mr Williams said he called a “tip line” to alert officials of Mr Heath’s admission.
In testimony to Supervising Assistant State’s Attorney Warren Murray, who is the prosecutor, Mr Williams said he had never heard of the murder case before learning about it from Mr Heath.
Mr Williams said he has pleaded guilty to criminal offenses and is doing his prison time with the intent of having a better life when he leaves prison. He added that he is not gaining anything from his court testimony, but is testifying because it is “the right thing to do.”
As he spoke in the witness chair handcuffed and shackled with leg irons, a correction officer stood nearby watching Mr Williams.
Attorney Francis O’Reilly, who is Mr Heath’s special public defender, pointedly told Mr Williams that he is a “bad guy” who is willing to do what it takes to get what he wants.
Mr O’Reilly said that Mr Williams testified against Mr Heath in hoping to get an early release from prison through the state’s “sentence modification” program, which may reduce sentences for inmates who have done good deeds in the eyes of the program.
Mr Williams said he has no such motive.
Inmates in prison have means of learning the specifics of a particular criminal case, such as Mr Heath’s, through reading newspapers, making telephone calls to family members, and having people outside of prison do research for them on the Internet, Mr O’Reilly said.
Mr O’Reilly again told Mr Williams that he is a convicted felon who is simply going to seek a reduced prison sentence in return for his testimony against Mr Heath.