Double Murder Trial Puts Police Conduct in Spotlight

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Foster's Daily Democrat file photo

Accused of double homicide, Timothy Verrill is pictured in this file photo heading into court.


DOVER – Timothy Verrill is either a paranoid drug addict who brutally murdered two women because he feared one was a police informant, or he’s the fall guy for his drug dealing friend who wanted to end his business partnership with his girlfriend.

Jurors in Strafford Superior Court started hearing testimony Tuesday in the second murder trial of Verrill. Those jurors will also hear how police botched the investigation, leading to a mistrial in 2019.

“Police carried out a distracted and incomplete investigation,” said defense attorney Matt McNicoll during Tuesday’s opening arguments. “Their errors were so egregious we had to stop the first trial more than two weeks into (presenting) the evidence.”

But Assistant Attorney General Brian Nicholas Greklek-McKeon will try to prove to jurors Verrill is a “paranoid drug dealer” who murdered two women in horrific fashion.

Verrill is charged in the stabbing and beating deaths of Christine Sullivan, 48, and Jenna Pellegrini, 32, at the home of Dean Smoronk in Farmington, where their bodies were found Jan. 27, 2017. Sullivan lived with Smoronk and Pellegrini was a houseguest, according to court records. Verrill also allegedly tried to hide their bodies under the home’s porch and attempted to hide or destroy other evidence.

But Verrill’s defense attorneys say Smoronk is the real killer, who wanted to take total control of his drug operation. Smoronk’s drug business has operations in Florida and New Hampshire, and Sullivan ran the New Hampshire side of the business. As Smoronk and Sullivan’s relationship frayed, Smoronk got tired of the way she ran the drug business, according to McNicoll.

At the do-over trial, the state is getting its second chance to prove Verrill is the man who beat and stabbed Sullivan before attacking a sleeping Pellegrini and stabbing her more than 40 times. The first trial ended in mistrial in October of 2019 when prosecutors were forced to disclose three times during the trial that they had failed to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to Verrill’s legal team.

But the state will have to show jurors Verrill is the killer while it cannot prove he was actually in the house at the time of the murders. McNicoll told jurors there is no DNA evidence from the murders linked to Verrill.

Verrill was friends with both Sullivan and Smoronk, and sold drugs for their business. But his interest in selling drugs was waning, according to McNicoll, and he was increasingly seen as lazy and unreliable by Smoronk.

On Wednesday, the state called Kat Bradstreet, Sullivan’s friend, to the stand. Bradstreet testified Verrill told her he struggled from his frequent use of methamphetamines and cocaine, and he had “dark thoughts” as a result of the drugs. However, Bradstreet also testified that while she never felt uncomfortable around Verrill, she did not like being around Smoronk.

Also on Wednesday New Hampshire State Trooper Stephen Johnson reviewed surveillance photos from the murder house, where Sullivan and Smoronk kept cameras for their security. Those videos show Verrill being the only visitor to the house in the hours before the murder. A camera set up outside the house captured Verrill going back and forth between the house and the garage shortly before the supposed time the women were murdered. Some of the cameras were tampered with before the murders, and some of the lenses covered.

Greklek-McKeon told jurors Tuesday that the night before the murders an agitated and paranoid Verrill told his friend he thought Pellegrini was a police plant informing on Sullivan and Smoronk drug operation. That friend, though, Josh Colwell, has his own relationship with federal law enforcement.

Colwell, reportedly a former member of the Mountain Men Motorcycle Club, was busted by agents with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in 2018 for dealing methamphetamine. He faced up to 20 years in prison for the convictions, according to court records. The federal probation department recommended between 30 and 37 months in prison for the convictions. However, in 2021, Colwell got a break and was sentenced to time served, avoiding any prison time for the meth dealing.

Damien Fisher is a veteran New Hampshire reporter who lives in the Monadnock region with his wife, writer Simcha Fisher, their many children, as well as their dog, cat, parakeet, ducks, and seamonkeys. 

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