Keith Margotta, older brother of slain Ellington mother Connie Margotta Dabate, said he still remembers the day he met his baby sister.
“My father brought me to the hospital to see her for the first time and the nurse held her up to the window,” he said, reaching his arms up toward the sky outside of the Rockville Superior Courthouse on Tuesday.
But his time with his sister, he said, “was cut short.”
Cut short by her husband, Richard Dabate, who, on Tuesday, was found guilty of killing her.
Richard Dabate, once intertwined in the Margotta family as Connie’s loving husband and father to the couple’s two young sons RJ and Connor, was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday after a jury found him guilty on all three charges he faced — murder, lying to police and tampering with evidence — more than six years after his wife’s death.
Connie Dabate’s family reached out to grasp one another in the courtroom as the jury delivered the verdict. Some smiling, some eyes brimming with tears. That afternoon, they stood with their hands held tight, connecting them on the steps of the courthouse and talked about the woman they lost.
Connie was a devoted mother who loved to scrapbook photos of her sons and dedicated her free time to volunteering and being a caregiver. She was a loving daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and colleague. She loved the color yellow.
“She spent her whole life focused on helping her family and friends, displayed a keen sense of humor and brought joy to all who knew her,” said family friend Wayne Rioux on Tuesday on behalf of the family. “Her smile lit up the room and was infectious.”
Connie volunteered for years with the Ellington Volunteer Ambulance Corps, leading the group as a president some years, and organized volunteer events at the local YMCA, where she also enjoyed exercise classes such as cycling.
“She was humble, performed acts of kindness without recognition, and her generosity and compassion for those in need were her trademark,” said Rioux.
During the trial against her husband, State’s Attorney Matthew C. Gedansky said Connie Dabate was “everybody’s best friend.”
She was a loving wife and the breadwinner of the family with a lucrative career, he said.
Connie Dabate, 39, was a successful pharmaceutical sales representative for Reckitt Benckiser, according to an obituary for her.
She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1999 after attending Ellington High School. She grew up in Ellington and Vernon and built her life with her home family in her hometown, not far from her parents who were married for decades before her father died.
But her proudest accomplishment, said Rioux, was being a mom.
“In all of Connie’s achievements, she took the most pride and joy in being a loving and devoted mother to RJ and Connor,” he said.
She dedicated countless hours to making sure her son Connor had the best medical care, driving him back and forth to Boston for doctor’s appointments and then coming home to Connecticut to care for her father, who was battling leukemia.
Keith Margotta said Tuesday that his sister “was a terrific sister, mother, daughter, and I really loved her.”
His moments with her, he said, went by too fast.
“Life has just gone by so quickly. Through all my stages of life, it’s just unbelievable how quickly the time I spent with Connie was.
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“And it feels like it’s been cut short.”
While Connie was once a pivotal member of their family, her loved ones now feel her absence at every get-together, at every celebration and in the everyday moments.
“Connie is no longer present for family gatherings, holidays or her children’s milestones,” said Rioux. “Connie was essentially sentenced to death, while this convicted murderer has been living his life while out on parole for 6 1/2 years.”
Dabate is now held in lieu of a $5 million bond while awaiting sentencing, up from the $1 million that allowed him to walk free for years.
Connie’s brother said that as they sat through the five-week-long trial — each of her siblings and her mother taking turns on the stand to help the state build its case — they relived the sadness, shock and search for justice that they first felt six years ago.
For some of them, like her sister Marliese Shaw who sat through every day of the trial, it was a torturous experience that felt like a lifetime, their brother said.
Last week, they felt like their “lives were in the jury’s hands,” he said, thanking the jurors for their time and, ultimately, the decision that brought them some semblance of justice.