Police Chief Saw ‘Solvable Case’ Developing Against John Heath

Twenty-eight years and one month to the day John Heath told Newtown police he discovered his wife Elizabeth had left their Poverty Hollow Road home and declared her a missing person, he was being arraigned on first degree murder charges at Danbury Superior Court.

Newtown Chief Michael Kehoe, who was a local patrol officer when the missing person case was first reported, announced Heath was taken into custody on April 30 and was being held on a $1 million court-ordered bond pending a May 1 arraignment.

Chief Kehoe said Newtown detectives and support staff had been working tirelessly along with Western District State Police and state's attorney personnel since the grisly discovery on April 14, 2010, of a skeleton on the property formerly owned by Mr Heath. Those remains were determined to be those of Elizabeth, and subsequent examination of the skeleton determined the victim died from blunt force trauma.

At that point, Chief Kehoe said the missing person case became a murder investigation which eventually led to Mr Heath's arrest.

Chief Kehoe said he and state's attorneys are convinced the "totality of circumstances" that will be revealed as the prosecution of John Heath moves forward will yield "all the makings of a solvable case."

The Newtown chief said once the hard evidence of the skeleton and the circumstances of Mrs Heath's death became clear, it triggered further searches at both the Poverty Hollow Road location and at Mr Heath's current residence at 5 Keeler Road in Bridgewater.

While Chief Kehoe said he did not work on the Heath missing person investigation when it developed in early April 1984, he did recall that at the time it was one of a number of cases his department was handling that it would continue to carry as unsolved or "cold."

Chief Kehoe said up until the body was discovered two years ago during renovations of a barn on the Poverty Hollow Road site by the property's current owner, the Heath case would have received the level of follow-up handling of any missing person situation. And some time before the discovery of the skeleton, all the local cold cases were reopened.

"It was out of my concern for the families," Chief Kehoe said. "I think all families should have some type of closure on these cases, and we should do everything we can to find the person."

But once the remains were found and identified, it activated a number of local and state law enforcement personnel who worked "exhaustively" to compile the evidence necessary to affect the arrest.

"Once we find a crime scene, we have to determine a crime has been committed. Then we can move forward with a criminal investigation," he said. "When you find the remains of a person, you can determine the cause of death, which [in this case] was blunt trauma force to the head."

Chief Kehoe said items found during searches of Mr Heath's former Newtown and current Bridgewater homes provided "the basis of circumstantial evidence we used to gain an arrest warrant." He did not want to reveal specifics of the evidence that was developed. "It was all circumstantial," he said.

"The State Police Western District Major Crime Squad has been working with us side by side and shoulder to shoulder since the remains have been located, but our agency has done yeoman's work in developing details in the investigation," Chief Kehoe said.

He said the Heath case has been the biggest investigation since he took over the department and only the second murder in Newtown since he was a captain with the department.

"This had all the makings of a solvable case," Chief Kehoe said. "I think it's going to the totality of circumstances that will come out, that led us to believe Mr Heath committed this crime — turning over every stone that could be turned over."

Ultimately, Chief Kehoe identified the Heath case as one that exhibited a number of elements that have become common in domestic violence cases. He noted that Elizabeth Heath was seeking a divorce on the grounds of spousal abuse, but she was still residing at the Poverty Hollow home when she was reported missing.

He also noted that among the items of evidence discovered with the body was a sheet of heavy-duty plastic, which may have been used to wrap the body. Chief Kehoe said at the time Mrs Heath went missing, John Heath was self-employed as a contractor with a "significant amount of money" who owned "a significant amount of property."

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