Jurors in the murder trial against Richard Dabate heard testimony Monday from an expert on Fitbit technology and accuracy.
Prosecutors believe the device, which was found on Connie Dabate’s body when she was killed, reveals information that contradicts the story Richard Dabate told police.
Dr. Keith Diaz took the stand at Rockville Superior Court to discuss his extensive knowledge of the device. The assistant professor of behavioral health at Columbia University of School of Medicine is an established expert on wear-able fitness devices. In 2014 & 2015 he conducted a peer-reviewed study on the Fitbit 1’s technology and accuracy.
“The hip device was really really good. If you were rated on a scale of 0 to 100 it was 98% (accurate),” said Diaz, speaking with NBC Connecticut outside the courthouse.
The Fitbit 1 was the exact device found on Connie Debate’s body, on December 23, 2015, the day she was killed. Richard Dabate told police a masked intruder, dressed in camouflage, entered their Ellington home, and shot Connie in front of him around 9:05 a.m. that morning. Prosecutors dispute that and displayed evidence Monday showing the last registered movement Connie’s Fitbit showed was at 10:05 a.m. that morning, an hour after the time the police warrant says Dabate told police the murder happened.
The defense argued the time could have been off if the device the Fitbit was synced with did not have the accurate time. Diaz says that’s unlikely.
“I don’t have much doubt about the device not having timeline correct because it syncs. It’s just automatic,” Diaz said.
Defense attorney, Trent Lalima argued that the time could’ve been off because of something they say is called “Time Drift.” Diaz confirmed this sometimes happens if the computer a Fitbit is synced with has lost internet connection.
Lalima emphasized the possibility of inaccuracy by asking Diaz to look at the time on the computer monitor in the courtroom. Diaz pointed out that it displayed 1:16 p.m. The actual time was 12:58 p.m. Showing the information was off by 18 minutes. However, Dr. Diaz told NBC Connecticut he believes there is likely no discrepancy in device Connie Debate was wearing.
“For Mrs. Dabate not to have a computer that is internet-connected and not to have a smartphone with the Fitbit app on it, to me is odd if you’re a Fitbit user,” said Diaz.
Dr. Diaz told NBC Connecticut this is not the only murder trial he’s testified in because of Fitbit information. He was also involved in the 2021 murder trial of Richard Bowman in Ohio. The Fitbit info was used in that case to establish a timeline. Bowman was found guilty.
Also taking the stand Monday was Cindy Margotta, Connie’s mother. She was asked if she’d ever seen Connie with a gun. She responded saying, “that’s absurd.”
Barbara Pinti, a psychotherapist, testified Monday that Connie had set up an appointment with her shortly before she was killed. Margotta confirmed that Connie had told her about that upcoming appointment. She recollected a conversation with her daughter about that appointment. During their discussion, Margotta said her daughter said, “Rick is a mess.”
Walking out of court, the defense declined to comment on today’s testimony.
“We are a month into it. I’m not trying not to speak on the case as it comes in so I’m going to stick to that,” Lalima said.