Murray Colton

On morning of January 13, 1987, the body of 36-year-old Patricia Konesky, a drug addict and prostitute, was found in the third base dugout of a neighborhood baseball field in New Haven Connecticut. Her skull was fractured and she had been stabbed 248 times.

Among those questioned by police were 20-year-old Murray Colton, who was seen talking to Konesky in a tavern not far from the murder that was owned by Colton’s father, Phillip, and where the Colton family resided on the second floor.

Colton said he had spoken to Konesky, but denied killing her. Police also questioned Janice Tourangeau, who was an acquaintance of Konesky and also supported a heroin addiction with prostitution. Tourangeau said she knew nothing about what happened.

No weapons were recovered. Police found four dimes next to Konesky’s body, which they believed was a message left by the killer that Konesky had been killed because she was an informant for New Haven police.  In fact, Konesky had provided information about drug dealing in Phillip Colton’s tavern which led to a police search there and a drug conviction for Phillip Colton.

After the case remained unsolved for a year, a $20,000 reward was offered in February 1988 for information leading to an arrest and conviction. A few weeks later, on March 29, 1988, Tourangeau was arrested and charged with prostitution. At the police station, she said she wanted to make a statement about the Konesky murder. She told detectives that on the night of the crime, she went with Konesky to buy drugs and that Konesky had said that she could come, but had to stay out of sight.

Tourangeau said she followed Konesky to the ball field and while standing behind some bushes 190 feet away, she saw Murray Colton and Konesky walk across the ball field and sit in the dugout. As they talked, a man she did not know jumped out and struck Konesky in the head so hard she toppled to the ground. Colton and the man then began kicking Konesky. Tourangeau said she ran away at that point and did not learn that Konesky was dead until she saw a television news report that night. She said she had not spoken about what she saw because she was afraid of being labeled a snitch.

Murray Colton was arrested on June 9, 1988 and charged with murdering Konesky. The prosecution’s theory was that Colton killed Konesky in revenge for her role in his father’s drug conviction.

When Colton went on trial in New Haven Superior Court in July 1989, Tourangeau was the prosecution’s central witness. She denied implicating Colton to obtain the reward and said she wasn’t going to apply for it. She said she came forward because she felt guilty about not saving Konesky. Tourangeau also testified that at the time of the crime she earned $2,000 a week from prostitution to support her heroin addiction, but that she no longer took drugs or worked as a prostitute.

Colton denied any involvement in the murder and testified that on January 12, 1987, he went to a concert and came home at 10:30 p.m. He said he spoke to Konesky outside his father’s bar before it closed at midnight. After that, his father drove him to his girlfriend’s house, but he was too drunk and it was too late, so he didn’t go inside. Instead, his father drove him home where he passed out in front of the television.

A mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Colton went on trial a second time in April 1990 and again the jury deadlocked. Another mistrial was declared.

The third trial began in the spring of 1991. Tourangeau again testified that she saw Colton and an unknown man attack Konesky. Defense attorneys sought to undermine Tourangeau’s credibility by presenting evidence that she lied when she testified that she had neither used drugs nor worked as a prostitute after July 1989. A witness offered by the defense said that he had used heroin with Tourangeau four or five times a week through most of 1990 and that she had been on drugs when she testified at Colton’s second trial.

The defense argued that Tourangeau implicated Colton in order to get money for her drug habit and not because she felt guilty for failing to save Konesky. They presented evidence that despite what she said in court, Tourangeau had sought the reward money (she was later given $14,000). The defense also sought to introduce the testimony of an acquaintance of Tourangeau, Jackie Boyles, who said that just a few weeks prior to the third trial, she saw Tourangeau engaging in prostitution in the parking lot of a restaurant in Milford, Connecticut.
 
The trial judge, however, excluded this evidence, although Boyles was allowed to testify that on the night of the murder, Tourangeau was not at the murder site but across town, with Boyles, injecting heroin.
 
The jury convicted Colton on April 6, 1991 and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Two years later, in 1993, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the conviction, ruling that the defense should have been allowed to confront Tourangeau with the evidence that she engaged in prostitution and drug use after July 1989. The court said that the case turned almost entirely on Tourangeau’s credibility and that the defense evidence could have led the jury could to disbelieve her testimony about Colton’s involvement in the murder.

Colton was freed on bond in September 1993 pending a fourth trial. For the next few years, the prosecution and defense fought over a defense motion to bar a fourth trial because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. That motion finally failed in the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1998, setting the stage for a fourth trial.

On September 2, 1998, the prosecution, citing the death of Tourangeau and other missing witnesses, moved to dismiss the charges against Colton and the judge granted the motion.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

 

State:Connecticut
County:New Haven
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1987
Convicted:1991
Exonerated:1998
Sentence:50 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No