WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Nearly three years after Constance Gauthier was stabbed more than 70 times, questions continue to swirl around everything from the motive and murder weapon, to the suspects police arrested last year.
The murder of Gauthier, 81, went unsolved for more than two years, and within months of a pair of arrests last year, the charge against the victim’s neighbor was dismissed for lack of evidence.
Lone defendant Matthew Dusseault, held without bail since July 2018, alleged Tyler Grenon stabbed Gauthier. But the interrogation itself is questioned on the grounds of Dusseault’s mental disability would’ve clouded his understanding of his Miranda rights.
(The murder charge against Grenon was dismissed in January without prejudice.)
During a two-day bail hearing that ended last week, defense attorney Kevin Salvaggio said “there’s no way” Dusseault understood his rights when he was first approached by police.
Woonsocket Police Det. Anthony Conetta told the court Dusseault did understand he had a right to remain silent but still talked willingly about the crime.
On March 23, 2016, Woonsocket Police Lietenant Ronald Marcos was first on scene at Gauthier’s Fairfield Avenue ranch-style home.
Gauthier was “like a grandmother” to his neighbor Grenon according to police, who said Grenon had a key to the front door.
Marcos told the court Grenon was at Gauthier’s home when he arrived, pointing through a window, damaged enough for Grenon to pull back the curtains and point toward the body.
“The top part of the sash was pushed in,” Marcos said.
On cross examintation, Marcos said he was not sure if the curtain or window was ever tested for fingerprints or DNA.
Gauthier was well known in the city as a long-time Woonsocket school department employee and the chairwoman of the city personnel board.
Marcos said as he walked through her side yard toward the window, he noticed one door to the home was roped shut from the inside.
Grenon went to a back door.
“I looked in the window, radioed for a rescue and then heard Tyler,” Marcos said. “He yelled out to me, I’m in. I’m in.”
He was not inside long enough to contaminate the crime scene, Marcos said on cross-examination.
Detective Christopher Brooks testified Gauthier’s body was found under a mattress in her bedroom where blood splatter covered the walls and furniture.
An autopsy revealed Gauthier was stabbed more than 70 times and police later determined the scene was staged to look like a robbery.
Duseault was indicted in January with prosecutors and police alleging his DNA was found near the body.
Cara Lupino, the director the state’s DNA lab, testified Dusseault’s touch DNA, probably skin cells, was found on furniture in three locations in Gauthier’s bedroom.
Some was mixed in with blood that fits Gauthier’s profile, according to Lupino.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Erickson asserted, “there’s only one person and one person only this investigation points to.”
During cross examination, Lupino did acknowledge the DNA of two unidentified men was also found in the home, but the samples did not match Grenon’s DNA.
Defense attorney Michael Lepizzera argued the state has to establish it is likely to prevail at trial to continue holding Dusseault without bail, saying he is suprised the state is “hanging its hat” on touch DNA.
“It doesn’t add up and it does not add up to beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lepizzera said. “[Lupino] doesn’t have evidence that puts Mr. Dusseault ever in that house. Never mind on the night in question.”
While the murder charge against Grenon was dismissed, Detective Conetta told the court he is “not cleared” at this point.
“There’s still a lot to be learned in this case,” Conetta said. “[Grenon] is not cleared for sure. He’s open to further suspicion.
Target 12 reached out to Grenon through his father who said he would pass on a request for comment to his son.
Judge Richard Raspallo is expected to release his ruling in court Wednesday.