QUESTIONS ABOUT THE INITIAL STAGES OF THE INVESTIGATION
Why did the Redding Police Department issue a press release within hours of Abe’s death classifying the gunshot as “self-inflicted”?
At approximately 7:00 am on April 5, 2014, less than five hours after Abe died, the Redding Police Department issued a press release. The release referred to Abe by name and stated: “At this time it does not appear that there is anyone else involved in this incident and that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.”
This public statement was made before an autopsy was done to properly determine cause of death and before the family was notified of Abe’s death. Similarly, no ballistic or other forensic tests were conducted prior to issuance of the press release.
The Dabela family does not understand the basis the Police Department had to make the statements in the press release so soon after Abe’s death.
REDDING POLICE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE
Why wasn’t the death scene investigated by either the Major Crime Squad or an investigator from the Office of the Medical Examiner upon discovery of a gunshot victim?
According to crime scene experts, best practices in a crime scene investigation call for an unnatural death to be treated as a homicide at the crime scene until homicide is conclusively ruled out in a particular case. Additionally, seasoned detectives in larger Connecticut cities, from Westport to Bridgeport to Hartford, have advised the family that there is an unofficial protocol whereby “small towns” immediately call in the Connecticut Major Crime Squad to conduct crime scene investigations on potential homicides, and that typically an investigator from the medical examiner’s office travels to the death scene to do a primary investigation. Neither of these steps were taken for Abe.
At this time, no explanation has been given as to why neither the Major Crime Squad nor an investigator from the medical examiner’s office were called to the scene to conduct a customary death scene investigation.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ONGOING INVESTIGATION
Why did the Redding Police Department not conduct in-depth interviews with potential witnesses or others who might have relevant information?
Based on the released police reports, the questions presented to callers and witnesses appeared to be seeking to confirm the Redding Police’s “suicide” theory. Review of these reports by seasoned investigators has raised concerns that the method of questioning by the Redding Police did not properly elicit all potentially relevant information that could lead to answers about what happened to Abe that night. Many of the individuals interviewed by the Redding Police Department were subsequently interviewed by a privately hired investigator, and they similarly recounted that the police shared with them the “suicide” and “shame” theories. In other words, rather than seek open-ended information potentially useful to an investigation, the Redding Police Department sought the interviewees’ views on why Abe would have taken his own life.
Is there physical evidence inconsistent with a suicide finding?
Yes. According to the State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Division of Public Services (State Crime Lab), dated July 2, 2014, in swabbing the handgun recovered at the scene for evidence, DNA was collected from various parts of the gun. Based on the testing of this DNA, Abe was excluded as a contributor to the DNA on the trigger; and he was only a partial contributor to DNA found elsewhere on the gun. This information suggests that Abe was not the last person to pull the trigger of the handgun recovered at the scene.
Various seasoned criminal investigators have been informally polled to determine whether in their experience a defendant has ever been charged (let alone convicted) of homicide, if their DNA was not on the trigger of the murder weapon and someone else’s DNA was recovered from the trigger. Not one such expert could recall any such circumstance. Yet, despite this physical evidence, the Redding Police Department continues to believe Abe’s death was a suicide.
Also inconsistent with suicide is the fact that the gun was not found in Abe’s hand, which is the typical location of the gun for suicides by fatal gunshot to the head. Some have queried whether another firearm (not recovered at the scene) was used to kill Abe, which would also suggest his death was in fact a homicide.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE AUTOPSY
Why doesn’t the autopsy include any discussion of the evidentiary basis upon which the Office of the Medical Examiner concludes that the manner of death is suicide?
The Office of the Medical Examiner’s autopsy concludes that the matter of death is suicide, yet it is completely bereft of details as to how it reached that conclusion. This is at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Handbook on death investigations calling for a suicide determination to require evidence of a death being both self-inflicted AND done with the intent to kill oneself. The CDC Handbook also provides a number of bases upon which intent can be determined. At this time, no evidence has been presented to support that Abe had an intent to kill himself.
CDC HANDBOOK ON DEATH REGISTRATION
Why were Abe’s hands not tested for gunshot residue by the Medical Examiner despite the Redding Police Department’s reports stating that this test was requested on multiple occasions prior to the autopsy?
The local authorities assert that Abe’s cause of death was suicide, yet the Office of Medical Examiner never tested his hands for gunshot residue to determine if he had shot a gun. No authority has explained why this testing was not done, despite the specific requests noted in various incident reports released by the Redding Police to the family.
Where is the location of the wound?
Per the autopsy report, Abe died of a “perforating gunshot wound of head” that entered on the right side above and posterior to the right ear, and exited the left side above and posterior to the left ear. In layman terms, he was shot through the back of his head. He was otherwise unharmed from the rollover of his SUV. In reviewing the autopsy report and photographs of the wound, the suicidologist engaged by the family reported that the entry wound was atypical of gunshot wound suicides which most often are to the temple, through the mouth or to the chest.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HANDLING OF EVIDENCE
Why did a Forensic Science Examiner from the State Crime Lab write to the State’s Attorney overseeing this case requesting a meeting about the handling of the evidence prior to its coming to the laboratory?
On June 14, 2014, a Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory’s Forensic Science Examiner asked the State’s Attorney for a meeting as they had concerns about some of the evidence and the handling of it prior to it coming to the laboratory. As of April of 2015, the State’s Attorney has informed the family that this meeting never occurred.
Why wasn’t the vehicle maintained in a secured facility after the incident?
As it was determined a suicide, the Redding Police only requested 48 hours of indoor storage for the vehicle. Thus access to the car was not as carefully controlled as it would have been for a homicide investigation.
Why hasn’t the vehicle been dusted for fingerprints?
That is a good question, but, yes, Abe’s vehicle has not yet been dusted for fingerprints.