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In the Name of Heroin: Pearce Describes Drug-Induced Robbery, Killing Spree

The jury in the double murder trial of Christopher DiMeo finally heard testimony from the state’s key witness on Monday. Nicole Pearce described in detail the couple's heroin addiction that was supported by a robbery/killing spree.

The jury in the double murder trial of Christopher DiMeo finally heard testimony from the state’s key witness on Monday.

Nicole Pearce, the ex-girlfriend of DiMeo, described their months-long foray into a robbery spree that spanned New York and Connecticut from December 2004 through February 2005 – all in the name of heroin. Pearce described an addicted couple that planned jewelry store robberies to support their escalating heroin habit.

DiMeo could get the death penalty for the murders of Tim and Kim Donnelly, who were gunned down in their downtown Fairfield jewelry store just over six years ago. Pearce, who is being treated for stage four cervical cancer, gave a recorded deposition Feb. 3 at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington where she is undergoing six weeks of chemotherapy. Despite a terminal medical condition, Pearce kept to her plea bargain to testify against her former boyfriend.

The jury was transfixed by the hour and-a-half long testimony where Pearce recalled her short-lived entanglement with DiMeo, whom she met through a friend in California in September 2004. After knowing each other just a few weeks, the pair left San Marcos, Calif. and headed for New York, where they soon ran out of money and could no longer support their substance abuse. Ultimately, DiMeo robbed four jewelry stores and took three people’s lives to support his 50-bag-a-day heroin habit, Pearce testified.

Dressed in a white hospital gown wearing dark-rimmed glasses, Pearce, 29, sobbed when shown photos of the New York and Connecticut jewelry stores she scouted out for DiMeo in preparation for the robberies.

The pair, who she said started out as friends, became a couple by the time they crossed the New York border where they settled in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn in the fall of 2004. After just a couple of months there, the drug-hooked couple moved to the Richmond Hill section of Queens, N.Y.  Pearce testified she told DiMeo several times she wanted to stop using heroin and start a methadone program, but “he never indicated he wanted to stop getting high,” she said.

By December 2004, Pearce said her heroin use was up to a half a “bundle” – or five bags – of the drug five to eight times a day. She said DiMeo’s use was at least double her own. She went on to describe the “getting well” phase where heroin users shoot up to feel “normal” – a heroin addict can then go about their day as normal, she said, to drive a car, engage in conversation, and even go to work or school, Pearce said.

During Pearce’s video testimony, Tara Donnelly, Kim and Tim Donnelly's daughter, looked away from the screen several times as she sat close to her brother, Eric. Seated at the defense table, DiMeo intently watched Pearce on-screen during the showing of her video-recorded testimony, but as she started tearfully describing the Fairfield incident and the days leading up to the Donnelly’s deaths, DiMeo often looked down at the table, devoid of emotion.

As Pearce explained to Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Corradino, she and DiMeo took enough heroin to “be well” until they ran out of money.

Pearce’s role in the robbery spree was clear-cut: she would go in to a jewelry store, take a mental picture of where the expensive jewelry was kept and remember where employees were standing, among other details. Pearce seemed to brag about her jewelry knowledge to prosecutors, telling them her mother had worked in jewelry and her family on her father’s side owned a jewelry store, giving her the ability to identify expensive gold and other jewelry.

DiMeo's former girlfriend described her role in another robbery of a Westbury, N.Y. store, where DiMeo later returned to the couple’s apartment with jewelry, money – and more heroin in early December 2004.

Describing her modus operandi in helping plan the robberies, she said, “I relayed the information to him, and told him my opinion. I thought he could get away with it easily without hurting anyone,” Pearce said.

But the tides turned when a robbery in Glen Head, N.Y. went wrong. After casing the interior of J&J Jewelry, Pearce advised DiMeo not to rob the store. But DiMeo’s mother, Maryann Taylor-Casey, encouraged him to do it anyway, she said. On Dec. 21, DiMeo not only robbed the Glen Head store, he also took the life of jeweler Thomas Renison. DiMeo is serving a life sentence for Renison's murder.

The couple then hid out in their apartment for several weeks before running out of money and drugs once again. DiMeo began getting sick and showing withdrawal symptoms, so the two drove upstate where DiMeo later robbed the Rockland Jewelry Center in Rockland, N.Y. Despite not being “well,” Pearce testified that DiMeo was coherent, understood his surroundings and was able to drive.

Prosecutors have attempted to show DiMeo's cognition was not impaired during the Donnelly incident and prove intent; meanwhile, DiMeo's defense team has attempted to poke holes in their case, claiming that DiMeo did not intend to kill.

In continuing her testimony, Pearce explained that she helped DiMeo navigate into Connecticut using a road atlas, where the couple descended on Fairfield.

Identifying sketches and business cards for state prosecutor Corradino, Pearce said on Feb. 1, 2005, she sketched the interiors of three downtown Fairfield jewelry stores. She began sobbing when the prosecution asked her to identify the sketches of Henry C. Reid & Son Jewelers on one side of paper from a legal pad, and another sketch of Donnelly Jewelers on the back side. Pearce told prosecutors the couple used phone books to locate the stores in Connecticut.

Prosecutors asked Pearce to recall her visits to Henry C. Reid, Midas Touch, Altan and Fairfield Center Jewelers – and the Donnelly’s – on the evening of Feb. 1. During this segment of testimony, Pearce appeared distraught, removing a jacket she was wearing over her hospital gown, frequently wiping away tears and sipping on water.

Following their arrests, police had seized business cards from the stores, as well as several sketches done by Pearce from the couple's apartment.

Pearce said she had a conversation with Tim Donnelly the day before he was killed, and talked to him about a necklace she wanted to have redesigned. In the meantime, unbeknownst to Donnelly, she was taking mental images of the store’s interior for her sketch, while she noted that only one employee was working in the store.

Pearce told prosecutors on the next day – Feb. 2, 2005 – the pair arrived in Fairfield and while driving around the downtown area, DiMeo got a call from his mother warning him to leave New York. Pearce said the couple went into the Fairfield Public Library to scan headlines on the Internet to check whether DiMeo’s photo was in the news. At about 4 p.m., DiMeo and Pearce drove by Donnelly Jewelers a few times, Pearce said, where they could see not one, but two people in the store.

By 5 p.m., DiMeo was still unsure of which jewelry store he would rob, according to Pearce. He dropped her off at the Fairfield train station, where Pearce caught the 5:02 p.m. train into Grand Central Station. And DiMeo then apparently made his decision to go into the Donnelly's store.

****

Later that night – high again on heroin – DiMeo met Pearce back at their Queens apartment. She was bordering on getting sick from withdrawal, telling prosecutors, “I was waiting for him because I was getting sick. I hugged him.”

Pearce tearfully testified that DiMeo shook his head. “He said it didn’t go good and I looked down and saw a drop of blood on his boot.” Pearce told the court the she and DiMeo shot up more heroin, and eventually went to sleep.

The next morning, DiMeo’s photograph was on TV, she said, and the couple fled to Atlantic City to hide out. Two days later, a SWAT team closed in on the Atlantic City motel where they were holed up. Pearce said the SWAT members rushed her into the motel’s lobby and told her there was a hostage situation. “I was oblivious to the fact that they were there for him,” she said.

After calling forensic psychiatry and psychology experts to talk about the physiological effects of heroin addiction, the state and defense both rested their cases Monday afternoon.

Judge Robert Devlin Jr. denied a procedural motion for acquittal from the defense. Each side will present their summation in Bridgeport Superior Court Tuesday morning.  The jury is expected to begin deliberating Tuesday afternoon.

Teresa February 10, 2011 at 07:31 PM
She is as big of a scumbag as her ex. She wants to cry now - what about the families of the people who's lives were taken to support their drug addidtion. Drug addiction is no excuse to kill innocent people. Makes me sick! She got what she deserved with terminal cancer. Too bad she won't suffer even more on death row where this pig belongs.
fairfield newcomer March 22, 2011 at 01:50 AM
another good christian with thought s of compassion.
Mark2022 June 03, 2011 at 04:04 AM
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone
Blubby June 03, 2011 at 10:28 AM
Really??????!!!!!!! They deserve the same amount of compassion as they showed to their victims. Eye for an eye.
Erbena October 13, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Nicole Pearce died on October 7, 2011 at the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT from cervical cancer. She was 29.
Chargergrl October 22, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I know Nicole personally she was and is a good friend of mine! I know and she know what she did was wrong and I know she feels for the familys that were destoyed by what happened but know this that when she was clean she was the sweetest person in the world! Untill you have walked in a person shoes dont comment on them! My heart goes out to the familys who lost their loved ones. Also my heart goes out to my friend Nicole the Nicole I know she could be.
Chargergrl October 22, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Nicole is and was a friend of mine, even though I dont agree with what she did or what happened I do know that she was not like that when she was clean and sober! Drugs can do some crazy things to you especially herion, its no joke. Instead of condemming her we need to talk to our children and teach them that drugs are not the way to go. Nicole I love and miss you very much!
ParalegalAKR December 05, 2012 at 07:34 PM
After watching Nicole on Wicked Attraction aired Dec 5,2012. A year later of course, I'm sure she was'nt like that when she was clean and sober but was very aware murdering and robbing these people were very wrong but God works in his own mysterious way she suffered from her dependency on Heroin cancer I think robbed her of her life and serving 20 to life either way It was justified w her death. As far as her bf hope he rots and dies in jail he pulled the gun remember not her!
Champaynee December 16, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Ni ni you will for ever and always be missed Its been almost 2 years and I had know idea!!! She lived a legacy and was the best thing that could have happened to anyone!!! I send my prayers to her family!!! Are last words were I LOVE YOU and I'm sending them back to her through the doves!!! May you rest in peace for all eternity!!!
Champaynee December 16, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Chargergrl if you get this can you please contact me back through email at demacusmurphy@yahoo.com......
Champaynee December 16, 2012 at 08:33 PM
It's hard to judge a book by its cover when you haven't even read the introduction!!! For what's its worth judge your own mess before you judge another!!!

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