Cheshire private investigator (and Ex-Cop) charged with bribing witness who recanted testimony in 1993 New Haven murder case (read the warrant)
New Haven Register
by By William Kaempffer and Mary E. O’Leary
May 7, 2012
Ronald Taylor, left, and George Gould, right, with Private Investigator G.J. “Jerry” O’Donnell of Chesire, center, celebrating their release in front of Rockville Superior Court Thursday after spending 16-years in prison for a 1993 murder in Fair Haven that they did not commit. O’Donnell was instrumental in gathering the evidence of their innocence.
NEW HAVEN —
A murder case with numerous twists, took another spin Monday as an investigator working to free two men imprisoned for the killings, has himself been arrested.
Gerald “Jerry” O’Donnell, 67, of Cheshire was charged with witness tampering and bribery in connection with the George Gould and Ronald Taylor habeas corpus cases.
Gould and Taylor were sentenced to 80 years each in the killing of Eugenio Deleon Vega in 1993 in his Grand Aveue bodega.
In 2010, following a habeas court hearing, Superior Court Judge Stanley Fuger Jr. concluded that the men had suffered a “manifest injustice” and he ordered them freed from prison.
That decision, however, was overturned by the state Supreme Court, which found Fuger had misapplied the legal standard to overturn two convictions and it ordered a new habeas trial.
Ironically, Fuger was convinced of Gould and Taylor’s innocence when witness Doreen Stiles, who was key to the prosecution’s case, recanted her testimony in which she had implicated the two men in the killing.
Now Stiles is saying she changed her original testimony because of pressure from O’Donnell, who allegedly bought her a television and a stereo, gave her cash and promised her some portion of any wrongful incarceration settlement with the state, if the men were ultimately freed from prison.
“What can I say?,” attorney Joseph Visone, who represents Gould, said when reached by phone and told that O’Donnell had been arrested. “My heart goes out to him.”
In another twist, Visone said he received certain information in a closed door hearing in the case in Superior Court in Vernon a few weeks ago that moved him to seek permission to withdraw from the case.
He said some information “was not forthcoming to me.”
Visone could not discuss any other details, but said his partner, attorney Peter Tsimbidaros, who originally was Taylor’s counsel, was allowed to withdraw and Visone will stay until the latest habeas is concluded.
Both attorneys were special public defenders in the habeas petitions.
Asked if he thought O’Donnell badgered witnesses, Visone said: “One man’s badgering is another man’s aggressive investigation.”
A former prosecutor in Massachusetts, Visone said he was never there when O’Donnell talked to witnesses, as that would have been improper. “I let investigators and police do their investigations,” he said.
Visone said he has worked with O’Donnell, who was a former Cheshire police officer and a retired Division of Criminal Justice investigator, for several years. O’Donnell is a Connecticut licensed private investigator.
Stiles, who is also known as Doreen Drenyoszky, told investigators for the chief state’s attorney’s office that O’Donnell allegedly visited her weekly for three years when she was a patient in a Manchester nursing home.
She said O’Donnell kept telling her that she could not have been at the murder scene or see Gould and Taylor commit the Vega murder.
“I mean he just kept, I just couldn’t get him, like, off me, off my back,” she is quoted as saying in the arrest affidavit. She said O’Donnell told her he had witnesses that said she wasn’t near the murder scene when she said she was.
Stiles told the investigators that her original testimony in 1995 was mainly true, “I would throw things in there that weren’t true. You know that weren’t, that weren’t true, but as far as, you know, what I saw and what, you know, the important stuff was true.”
The investigators said she has both the stereo and television in her possession, and they were able to track down the purchase of the TV from a Wal-mart in Newington and match the credit card purchase with O’Donnell’s alleged signature.
Keith Wortz, a New Haven detective at the time of the Vega murder, was one of the first on the scene. He told investigators that whenever he would meet him, O’Donnell would push his theories about the murder, which he thought was “weird.”
Another witness in the case, Pamela Youmans, told the court that O’Donnell, “he hounds me.” In the first habeas in 2009, she denied statements allegedly attributed to her by O’Donnell.
O’Donnell was released on $75,000 bail and will be arraigned May 15 in Superior Court. Tsimbidaros could not be reached for comment.