Verrill Double Murder Trial: Ex-Drug Ring Enforcer Denies Killing Women

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Josh Colwell took the witness stand Thursday in the double murder trial of Timothy Verrill.


DOVER – Josh Colwell told jurors he’s a former drug dealer and enforcer for the Dean Smoronk drug trafficking ring, but adamantly denied having any role in murdering Christine Sullivan, 48, and Jenna Pellegrini, 32, in Farmington.

“No,” Colwell responded emotionally when asked if he killed the women in 2017.

One of the state’s key witnesses against Timothy Verrill, Colwell took the stand Thursday in Strafford County Superior Court with full immunity for his testimony in the double-murder trial. He’s also one of the defense team’s alternate suspects for the crimes.

Verrill maintains he’s innocent of the brutal stabbing and beating deaths of the two women, and his lawyers pointed toward Colwell and Smoronk as men who might be the real killers.

Colwell and Verrill dealt drugs for the organization headed by Smoronk and for which Sullivan acted as a manager. Colwell, a member of the Mountain Men Motorcycle Club, started selling drugs for Verrill and collecting debts for Sullivan. Asked on the stand how he got people to pay what they owed, the physically imposing Colwell did not directly say he traded in violence.

“Just being aggressive,” Colwell described his collection technique.

Sullivan managed the New Hampshire end of Smoronk’s trafficking ring, while he managed operations in Florida, according to testimony. But Sullivan and Smoronk had a “volatile” relationship, Colwell testified. The relationship disintegrated with Smoronk regularly calling Sullivan “heinous names,” Colwell testified.

“Dean was a jerk,” Colwell said.

No matter the state of the Smoronk and Sullivan partnership, Smoronk was out of town during the murders. He got on a plane to Florida on Jan. 25, 2017, and returned on Jan. 28, 2017, leaving Verrill and Colwell in New Hampshire.

In the weeks before the Jan. 27, 2017, murders, Verrill was showing signs of confusion and paranoia likely from his own heavy drug use, Colwell testified.

“I’m starting to get real worried about him,” Colwell texted to Smoronk at one point in the days before the murder.

Text messages between Colwell and Smoronk before the murder show Verrill was becoming unreliable to the point drug customers did not want to deal with him anymore. Around the same time, Smoronk and Colwell were concerned about a situation with “Spider” Mike Ditoria. Ditoria allegedly assaulted Sullivan and Smoronk and Colwell were considering options for dealing with him, according to Colwell’s testimony.

Ditoria and his associate, Stephen Clough, were both polygraphed during the initial murder investigation. Clough, who has since died, was considered a suspect, according to court records.

Colwell told jurors that hours before the murders, a paranoid Verrill came to his house and told him he thought there was a police informant close to the drug ring. Verrill allegedly suspected Pellegrini, Sullivan’s friend and house guest, was telling police about the business.

Colwell did not witness any of the violence. According to the security video system Sullivan had at her house, Verrill and Pellegrini were the only people at her house on the day of the murder.

Colwell was arrested in 2018 by DEA agents for trafficking methamphetamine, but he managed to avoid going to prison after conviction. In an unusual turn, prosecutors pushed for Colwell to be sentenced to time served rather than decades of incarceration. Colwell is now a drug rehabilitation counselor.

This is the second trial the state brought against Verrill. The original 2019 trial ended in mistrial after prosecutors violated discovery orders, keeping back potentially exculpatory information from the defense. These violations were not revealed until two weeks into the trial.

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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