State v. Bova

Decision Date18 March 1997
Docket NumberNo. 15221,15221
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Mark BOVA.

John R. Williams, New Haven, for appellant (defendant).

Carolyn K. Longstreth, Assistant State's Attorney, with whom, on the brief, was Mary Galvin, State's Attorney, for appellee (state).


PALMER, Associate Justice.

The defendant, Mark Bova, was convicted after a jury trial of murder in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54a (a) and conspiracy to commit murder in violation of General Statutes §§ 53a-54a (a) and 53a-48 (a). 1 The defendant appeals from the judgment of the trial court sentencing him to concurrent prison terms of sixty years on the murder count and twenty years on the conspiracy count. 2 He claims that the trial court improperly: (1) restricted his cross-examination of several witnesses in violation of his right to confront his accusers as guaranteed by the sixth amendment to the United States constitution; (2) denied his motion to suppress incriminating evidence seized from his home pursuant to a search warrant issued in violation of the fourth amendment to the United States constitution; (3) precluded him from introducing certain evidence in violation of his right to present a defense as guaranteed by the sixth and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution; (4) overruled his objections to certain allegedly inflammatory comments by the state during its closing argument, thereby depriving him of a fair trial; and (5) concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict of guilty of the crime of conspiracy to commit murder. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On January 29, 1992, at approximately 1:12 a.m., the defendant, accompanied by his father, approached Michael Pace, an officer of the Orange police department, in the Stop and Shop Supermarket parking lot in Orange. The defendant told Pace that he wanted to report that his wife, Susan Bova, was missing. According to the defendant, his wife had left their Ansonia home to go shopping between 7 and 7:30 p.m. the preceding evening and had not returned. The defendant further stated that he had just discovered his wife's car, a Chevrolet Cavalier, parked across the street from the Stop and Shop Supermarket in the parking lot of the Bradlees Department Store (Bradlees).

Pace then followed the defendant to the Cavalier, searched the vehicle and found only a plastic bag of clothing in the trunk. After Pace had completed a missing person report, the defendant drove the Cavalier home.

Shortly thereafter, the West Haven police department was notified that the body of a woman had been found in a soccer field near the Bradlees parking lot. The defendant was so informed by the police, and he immediately proceeded to the field. Upon his arrival there, he was shown the body, which he identified as his wife. According to the testimony of several police officers, including Officers Usha Carr and Louis Matteo of the West Haven police department, the defendant showed no emotion upon viewing his wife's body.

The defendant cooperated with the police investigation of his wife's death, consenting to a search of his home and to a second search of the Chevrolet Cavalier later in the day on January 29. Although the investigating officers found no evidence causing them to link the defendant to the murder, two West Haven police officers, including Matteo, observed that the defendant's entire home recently had been thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed. The officers also noticed sawdust on the floor of the garage, most of which had been swept up and deposited into a small metal container located in the garage. Finally, the officers observed several wood chips on the passenger seat of the Cavalier.

During the investigation, the defendant told the police about an extramarital affair that he had had with Diane Donofrio. According to the defendant, he began the affair with Donofrio in 1985, three years after his marriage to the victim. In addition to evidence of the defendant's relationship with Donofrio, there was evidence of the generally unstable nature of the defendant's marriage to the victim. Specifically, the couple had separated on two occasions, and the victim had commenced divorce proceedings against the defendant in the year preceding her death. The victim had withdrawn the marital dissolution action in November, 1991, after she and the defendant had reconciled.

The evidence also revealed that the defendant was suffering from financial difficulties. In 1984, the defendant had left his job as a produce manager at a grocery store and borrowed $180,000 from his parents to start an automotive supply business with his brother. The business failed, however, and the defendant returned to a lower paying position at the grocery store. At the time of the victim's death, the defendant still owed monthly payments of over $500 to his parents. There was also evidence that the defendant, as the primary beneficiary under two life insurance policies issued to the victim totaling $296,900, was in a position to benefit financially from her death.

Four months after the victim's death, the West Haven police sought and obtained a search warrant for the defendant's home. The affidavit in support of the warrant indicated that wood particles and synthetic fibers resembling carpet had been discovered on the clothing worn by the victim at the time her body was discovered. The search warrant authorized the police to search the defendant's home for such materials. Upon execution of the search warrant, the police seized carpet fibers and wood fragments that matched those found on the victim's clothing.

In May, 1993, the defendant terminated his relationship with Donofrio and moved in with another woman. Two months later, Donofrio contacted the West Haven police to report that the defendant had killed the victim. Thereafter, Donofrio explained that she and the defendant had discussed his plans to murder the victim at least one week prior to the murder. Specifically, the defendant told Donofrio that he loved her and could not afford a divorce, that he intended to kill the victim by strangulation, and that he would commit the murder on a Tuesday because he did not work on Wednesday.

Donofrio testified that the defendant telephoned her between 6 and 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 28, 1992, to tell her that he was in the process of killing the victim and that he needed her assistance. When Donofrio arrived at the defendant's home a few minutes later, she found the defendant and the victim in the couple's bedroom. The victim was lying on the bed, face down and unconscious. The defendant, who was on top of the victim, was strangling her with an extension cord. Because the victim continued to exhibit a pulse, the defendant began to strangle her manually, holding his thumbs on the back of her head and his fingers at the front of her neck. Donofrio then helped the defendant move the victim from the bed onto the floor, where they took turns smothering her with a pillow until she had no pulse.

Shortly thereafter, the defendant awoke his one year old son and strapped him into an infant seat in the back seat of Donofrio's car. The defendant gave Donofrio the extension cord, the pillow and the victim's pocketbook and instructed Donofrio to meet him at the Bradlees parking lot in Orange. Donofrio then left the defendant's home and drove to the Bradlees parking lot. Approximately twenty minutes later, the defendant arrived at the parking lot, driving the victim's Cavalier. The defendant explained to Donofrio that he had moved the victim's body to his garage, placed it in the Cavalier, and then driven to the soccer field, where he had discarded the body. The defendant left the Cavalier in the Bradlees parking lot, and Donofrio gave him and his son a ride home. According to Donofrio, she later placed the pillow in a charity's used clothing bin, gave the infant seat to a coworker, and placed the other objects in the trash. 3

The forensic evidence presented at trial corroborated Donofrio's testimony. The medical examiner testified that the victim had died from strangulation by a long, thin ligature, such as a lamp cord. In addition to two separate sets of ligature marks on the victim's neck, bruises on her neck indicated that she also had been strangled manually. An examination of the victim's voice box revealed a pattern of broken bones consistent with Donofrio's testimony that the victim had been strangled from behind. The medical examiner further indicated that the assault on the victim had lasted for up to twenty to thirty minutes. In addition, hairs similar to those of the defendant were found on the victim's jacket, and hairs similar to those of Donofrio were found on the victim's pants. Finally, because there was no sign of a struggle at the location where the victim's body was found, it appeared that the victim had been killed somewhere else, and that her body had been transported to the field. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.


The defendant claims that several evidentiary rulings by the trial court impermissibly infringed his rights under the confrontation clause of the sixth amendment to the United States constitution. 4 Specifically, the defendant argues that the trial court improperly precluded him from cross-examining: (1) Officer Carr regarding Carr's alleged excessive use of force on two occasions unrelated to this case; (2) Officer Matteo regarding his allegedly false testimony in a prior, unrelated case; and (3) Donofrio regarding her alleged stalking of the defendant and his new girlfriend. The defendant also maintains that the trial court improperly prohibited him from: (1) introducing Carr's official report of the defendant's identification...

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