Prosecutors Show Autopsy Photos in Double-Murder Trial

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Christine Sullivan, 48, and Jenna Pellegrini, 32, were slain in Farmington on Jan. 27, 2017.


DOVER – Photos of blood stains, stab wounds, and a fractured skull were introduced Monday as the double-murder trial against Timothy Verrill continued in Strafford Superior Court with grim testimony.

Dr. Thomas Andrew, New Hampshire’s former chief medical examiner who conducted the autopsies on Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini, explained the wounds found on the women. Sullivan’s skull was fractured by massive blunt force trauma and she was stabbed several times. Pellegrini was stabbed in her bed more than 40 times, leaving a large bloodstain in her mattress.

Jurors also saw more photos of things like the blood soaked rug used to conceal the murders, blood stains around Pellegrini’s bed, and clothing the women wore when they were killed.

It’s the type of dreadful evidence, methodically introduced, that can move jurors to vote guilty.

But jurors haven’t yet seen the evidence investigators hid from the defense, reportedly through incompetence. The discovery of reams of evidence during Verrill’s first trial in 2019 forced a mistrial, setting up this new legal showdown.

So far, since Verrill’s second trial started last week, the state has shown Verrill was an unstable drug addict who a close friend says was paranoid that Pellegrini might be a police informant. Verrill was part of the drug trafficking organization headed up by Sullivan and her romantic partner Dean Smoronk.
 Smoronk and Sullivan’s drug ring was under investigation starting at least a year before the murders, when Smoronk and Sullivan were arrested in South Carolina with methamphetamine and bomb making material.

But the evidence that is likely to come when the defense takes over, the evidence the defense team didn’t know about, lends credence to Verrill’s claim he didn’t kill the women.

Smoronk repeatedly told his friends and associates he wanted to kill Sullivan, as their romantic and business partnership soured since the South Carolina arrest. Investigators spoke to at least one Florida man, Fidencio Arellano, who claims Smoronk offered him money to kill Sullivan, according to court records filed after the evidence was uncovered. Investigators spoke to another witness who was told Smoronk offered Arellano money to kill Sullivan. This was not shared with the defense.

The women were murdered on Jan. 27, 2017, at the home Sullivan and Smoronk shared. Pellegrini was Sullivan’s friend and house guest. On the weekend the women were killed, Smoronk was in Florida, having left on Jan. 25. He returned on Jan. 29 when he could not get a hold of Sullivan and he reportedly became worried.

But investigators never handed over evidence that at least one witness, Chris Cortez, claimed Smoronk secretly flew back to New Hampshire to be present at the murders along with Stephen Clough and “Spider” Mike Ditoria. Also not shared with the defense is that Clough was a suspect during the investigation and sat for a polygraph test, but it was canceled because Clough had a “guilty knowledge” about the murders. Investigators also somehow managed not to hand the records from Ditoria’s polygraph which showed he scored as not truthful in his answer to the question, “did you kill the two women in Farmington.”

Ditoria has notified the court he plans to invoke his right to not self incriminate if called as a witness. Clough died after the first trial.

The state relies partly on Josh Colwell’s testimony to implicate Verrill. Colwell, a member of the Mountain Men Motorcycle Club and drug dealer for Sullivan and Smoronk, testified last week that Verrill acted strange hours before the murder, and after it allegedly happened. According to Colwell, Verrill was “off” and paranoid about a police informant.

But defense lawyers showed on cross-examination that Colwell was planning to take on a bigger role dealing cocaine with Smoronk, using his connections within the world of motorcycle clubs. Colwell had also testified he thought Sullivan planned to rob Smoronk.

The lead investigator on the case, Brian Strong with the New Hampshire State Police Major Crimes Unite, was pulled off investigations following the 2019 mistrial. According to court records, Strong stopped investigating cases because he was given a promotion and made commander of the Special Investigations Unit.

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