WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A possible murder weapon in a 2016 homicide that was recovered only days ago is currently being tested according to a detective who testified during the defendant’s bail hearing.
Matthew Dusseault, 22, has been held without bail since his arrest last year, and was indicted in January for allegedly murdering 81-year old Constance Gauthier.
The alleged murder weapon and motive are two missing pieces in the case.
During Dusseault’s bail hearing Tuesday, Woonsocket Police Det. Anthony Conetta told the court a knife was recently recovered, and is now undergoing tests.
“It was discovered about six days ago,” Conetta said on cross examination.
“Where?” defense attorney Keving Salvaggio asked.
“In Matthew Dusseault’s original apartment,” Conetta said.
During the detective’s statement, Salvaggio expressed brief frustration that the development had not been disclosed before the hearing.
Conetta testified Dusseault’s touch DNA, such as skin cells, was found in the victim’s home.
That supported testimony two weeks ago by R.I. Department of Health DNA lab supervisor Cara Lupino, who told the court Dusseault’s touch DNA was found mixed with blood in three locations near where the body was found.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Erickson emphasized the DNA places Dusseault at the scene, because he brought it there.
“It didn’t get in by a bird,” Erickson said. “It didn’t get here by somebody else. It’s mixed in with her blood.”
Dusseault’s mother has told Target 12 her family is related to Gauthier’s family, and her son had been in the home many times before the murder.
Defense Attorney Michael Lepizzera argued Lupino herself acknowledged there is no evidence Duseeault left his DNA in the house during the murder.
“She doesn’t have evidence that puts Mr. Dusseault ever in that house. Never mind on the night in question,” Lepizzera said. “It doesn’t add up and it certianly doesn’t add up to beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The state is seeking life without parole.
Judge Richard Raspallo is expected to make a ruling on bail next Tuesday.
During the first day of the bail hearing November 20, Lupino revealed details about the DNA discovered on a handful of 46 pieces of evidence that were examined.
Lupino told the court what’s known as “touch DNA” — which is typically skin cells — was found in blood drops collected from the dresser and nightstand drawers and a jewelry box in Gauthier’s bedroom.
Gauthier’s body was found under a mattress in the room within a few feet of the furniture.
“Both Constance Gauthier and Mathew Dusseault’s DNA were included in that mixture (of DNA),” Lupino told the court.
When questioned on day one of the hearings last month by the defense, however, Lupino said other evidence contained the DNA of two other males who have not been identified.
Touch DNA can last for years, she added, potentially supporting a claim made by Dusseault’s mother Paula Gauthier. She told Target 12 her family is related to Constance Gauthier and her son had been in the house several times over the years.
When prosecutors asked if touch DNA could remain on items like the jewelry box and furniture for years, Lupino acknowledged microscopic evidence like skin cells would likely last longer on certain surfaces.
Gauthier’s neighbor Tyler Grenon, 25, was also arrested for the murder, but a grand jury earlier this year indicted only Dusseault.
The murder charge against Grenon was dismissed without prejudice in January due to “insufficient evidence to proceed,” according to a court document. (When a case is dismissed without prejudice, it allows the prosecution to file another complaint in the crime.)
Grenon has denied any involvement with the murder.
The motive for the murder has never been released. Police said the home was “staged” to look like a robbery, but nothing was missing.
The arrest warrants for both Dusseault and Grenon included only a statement from Dusseault, who told investigators he was there at the time of the crime, but saw Grenon stab Gauthier and even tried to push him off her.
In January, Paula Gauthier – Dusseault’s mother – shared a document with Target 12 that stated her son’s IQ is below 70, and she said he has been mentally disabled his entire life.
Gauthier said “there is no way” her son would have understood his Miranda rights against self-incrimination.
His mother’s claim that the family is related to the Constance Gauthier is disputed by a relative of the victim.
Another alleged scenario was presented in a pair of 2017 Woonsocket Police warrants to search a phone and a Woonsocket apartment.
The documents named three men as possible suspects and detailed a woman’s claim that one of them returned home “covered in blood” around the time of the Gauthier murder.
The woman also told police the men said they had gone to rob an elderly woman, but “ended up stabbing her.”
None of the men named in the affidavits is charged in connection with the case, but one has a criminal history that includes several breaking and entering convictions.
One case involving that individual is still ongoing according to court documents, and involves him allegedly assaulting an elderly man during a burglary in North Smithfield.