Suspected Murderer Captured

February 7, 2005

Suspected Murderer Captured

The man wanted for the Feb. 2 murders of Fairfield, CT, jewelers Timothy and Kimberly Ann Donnelly, and the murder of jeweler Thomas Renison, Glen Head, NY, was arrested Feb. 4. Dozens of armed police officers swarmed a hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, after 23-year-old Christopher DiMeo was spotted on a surveillance camera.

A national alert was issued for DiMeo and detectives worked feverishly, tracking former associates as well as family members of the suspect in the New York City area.

At about 10 a.m. Feb. 4, the federal New York-New Jersey Regional Task Force tracked DiMeo to Atlantic City's Ascot Hotel, next door to the Tropicana Casino and one block from the city's Public Safety Building, where top law enforcement officials from the county and the state were meeting to discuss a recent crime wave in the city.

Police were searching rooms at the Tropicana when DiMeo's girlfriend, who police sources identified as Nicole Pearce of San Marcos, CA, came out of the Ascot and told them where he was.

According to the Associated Press, a front-desk worker said Pearce came down to pay for another night in the $39-a-night room when officers took her away.

The Atlantic City police hostage team began negotiating with DiMeo by phone at about 2 p.m. An hour later, DiMeo could be seen through a window with one hand in the air and one on the phone. He put the phone down, came out onto the balcony with his hands up and police took him to the ground and handcuffed him.

DiMeo will remain in the Atlantic County jail until Monday, Feb. 7, when he is to be extradited to New York or Connecticut. Friday evening, police had searched his room but did not find a gun, Fairfield police said. Jewelry was recovered in Atlantic City, but Fairfield Det. Lt. Chris Lyddy would not say where. It was unclear if the jewelry was stolen, Lyddy said.

"I have to say yes, speaking for myself and the others around here, we are relieved," said Christopher Donnelly, Timothy Donnelly's brother.

Though he grew up in the Glen Head area, DiMeo lived with his grandparents in San Marcos, CA, since June after serving a little more than two years for burglary, attempted robbery and drug possession. He transferred his parole to California with the permission of New York. In October, he left California with Pearce, 23, another parolee. She is wanted for grand theft and violating her parole, police sources said.

DiMeo stole his grandparents' 1999 Honda Passport, paintings worth $30,000 and $500 in silver coins. He also forged more than $3,000 in checks, said Det. Rick Persichilli of the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

A former girlfriend in the San Marcos area told police DiMeo had gambling issues and may have gone to Las Vegas, Persichilli said. Detectives assumed he might have returned to the New York area and tried to get in touch with old acquaintances. This week, detectives learned that his grandparents' car had been spotted in New York City.

Nassau detectives said the first known robbery he committed after leaving California was at Robert's Jewelers in Westbury, NY, on Dec. 5, when he used what would become his distinctive style – chatting at length with clerks about engagement rings before pulling a handgun and demanding merchandise.

He did the same a little more than two weeks later at J&J Jewels in Glen Head, NY. But police believe that the manager, Thomas Renison, 48, may have resisted and struggled. DiMeo, they said, shot and killed Renison, the father of two teens.

On Jan. 26, DiMeo walked into the Rockland Jewelry Exchange in Nanuet, Rockland County, NY, apparently unconcerned about disguising his appearance or altering his style, police said. After his usual friendly chat, he held a gun to a clerk's head, emptied trays of jewelry into his bag and was seen taking off in a black SUV.

By Jan. 28, Nassau detectives had begun to narrow their focus to DiMeo, who was then one of 16 suspects. Only after comparing evidence from Fairfield and Glen Head could detectives confidently name DiMeo as their prime suspect, said Farrell, who declined to say what evidence cemented the link. Friday, forensic tests definitely linked the weapon used in the Fairfield shooting to the Glen Head murder.

Since DiMeo left California, police believe he and Pearce began renting apartments in the Queens and Brooklyn, New York, area since the first week of October. His last known address was at 89-51 121st St., Richmond Hill, NY. New York City police found his grandparents' car Friday parked in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Nassau detectives were in the process Friday evening of obtaining search warrants to search both the apartment and car.

Detective are considering more charges for DiMeo and Pearce for other crimes they may have participated in, police sources said.

In Bridgeport, CT, where the Donnellys lived, reaction to the arrest was subdued.

"That wasn't our priority," said Paul Donnelly, one of Timothy's brothers. "But it's a good thing whenever someone who is doing something terrible won't do it again."

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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