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Update: Badaracco homicide case widens with New Fairfield search
NEW FAIRFIELD -- The investigation of a woman's disappearance 24 years ago -- now considered a homicide -- picked up steam Monday as police used ground-penetrating radar to search a property near Ball Pond.
Lt. J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police, confirmed that investigators were executing a search warrant at a home on Sunswept Drive in connection to the Mary Badaracco case.
Badaracco disappeared from her home in Sherman in August 1984.
"We are using specialized equipment and checking on leads and information developed to date," Vance said. "We are not prepared to say anything further at this point until the work is complete."
The Sunswept Drive home being investigated Monday was built shortly after Badaracco's disappearance, according to local land records. A building permit for the home was issued in September 1984.
At least two state police detectives and several technicians were seen Monday using ground-penetrating radar equipment to search the property around the house. Investigators also appeared to be using an electromagnetic imaging device.
Dozens of red flags were placed around the house before the work was completed.
Joseph Novella, a local developer who built the home, said he was contacted by police about a year ago and asked about subcontractors who worked there.
"One of the subcontractors is under suspicion for something," Novella said, adding that police investigators didn't give him any names. "They're obviously looking for something hidden up there."
He added that there is a "short list" of subcontractors who worked on the site, including Ernest Dachenhausen, a local excavator, and Badaracco's stepsons, who did much of the siding work on the home.
"We never had any problems or disputes on the site," Novella said. "We had a good relationship with Ernie (Dachenhausen). He did most of the site work for us."
Dachenhausen was arrested in April and charged with interfering with police as part of the probe into Badaracco's homicide. Dachenhausen owned a home on Farrell Road in Newtown around the time she disappeared.
Last September crews working with the state police excavated the backyard of that home and removed several vehicles buried on the property, witnesses said at the time.
During his arraignment hearing in the spring, Senior Assistant State's Attorney John Malone said Dachenhausen gave police information that was "contradicted by physical evidence" in the case.
On Monday, Dachenhausen reaffirmed his innocence during an interview with The News-Times. He said he doesn't know anything about Badaracco's disappearance.
"They wasted their time up in Newtown and they'll waste their time up there (in New Farfield)," Dachenhausen said. "When I get through this I'm going to sue the state and those detectives for what they are doing to me."
The case against Dachenhausen remains pending.
Mary Badaracco's daughter, Beth Profeta, said the most recent development in the case renews her hope that justice will be served. Profeta was 20 when her mother disappeared.
"Any little crumb restores my faith and hope," she said. "I feel like the detectives are ready to solve this case. I'm thrilled."
There were no developments in the case for nearly 20 years, Proferta said, so the detectives now investigating it have been "a blessing and an answer to our prayers."
"Everything that is being found now could have been found 20 years ago if they just looked," she said. "It is real detective work that is finding this information."
Ground-penetrating radar, according to State Archaeologist Nick Bellantoni, can find a variety of features underneath the surface. Bellantoni has assisted state and local police in past investigations that involved use of the technology.
He said the sled-like device, which is pulled along the ground, uses short wave radio signals to locate solid objects under the surface, including metal pipes and coffins, as well as soil anomalies, such as a hole previously dug and filled in.
"For example, if there are only skeletal remains, it wouldn't pick up the body, but it will record the disturbance or the burial feature," he said. "Basically, what it does is say there is something under the surface that is an anomaly. To find out what that anomaly is would require further excavations."
He added that investigators using ground-penetrating radar often use flags to determine the grid of the search area. They may also be used if anomalies are found that warrant further investigation.
Vance said the owners of the home on Sunswept Drive have been extremely cooperative with investigators.
Stephen Logan, who owns the home, declined to comment Monday.
Vance urged anyone with information in the case to call state police at (203) 267-2200.