By Richard Weizel
MILFORD, Conn. (Reuters) - A Connecticut drug dealer was found guilty on Monday of brutally murdering his former girlfriend in her home nine years ago, just as her acting career had gotten a boost from a role in the popular television drama "Law and Order."
Matthew Pugh, 42, of Hamden, Connecticut, was convicted of the 2006 murder of Alexandra Ducsay, 26, by a jury of nine women and three men after three days of deliberations. While deliberating, the jury listened again to Pugh's own words on the witness stand, which may have sealed his fate, his attorney said.
"We strongly advised him not to do it. It's very rare that a defendant in a murder trial will testify," said defense attorney Paul Carty, who tried to prove during the trial there was only circumstantial evidence linking Pugh to the murder, which took place in Milford, about 54 miles southwest of Hartford.
"He insisted he wanted to tell his story, and that is his right," Carty said. "But any time you expose yourself to cross-examination you are exposing yourself to fire. And he got burned."
Pugh testified that he had lied to police when he told them he was not in Milford on the day of the murder, having been a half-mile away from Ducsay's home, shopping at a Radio Shack. He said he had initially feared admitting that out of concern he would be named as a suspect.
Pugh also admitted writing threatening letters to Ducsay while serving time in prison on drug charges after she broke up with him, and his cousin testified during the trial that Pugh told him he wanted to kill Ducsay and cover up the murder.
Ducsay died from blunt force trauma and the suspected murder weapon is one of her trophies that went missing on the day of the murder, police said.
Prosecutor Kevin Lawlor called the killing "one of the most brutal" he had ever seen, and he described during the trial how Ducsay's mouth had been taped and her head was hit so hard that some of her teeth were found in her stomach.
The victim's mother, Linda Ducsay, said looking at her daughter’s killer during the trial "all I could see was evil. In this case justice prevailed over evil."
A judge scheduled sentencing for May 11. Pugh could be sentenced to up to 80 years in prison for the killing.
(Reporting by Richard Weizel; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech)