Unsolved Connecticut: The Strange Disappearance of Mary Badaracco.
John William Tuohy
On August 20, 1984 his wife, 38-year-old Mary Badaracco ran away from her in home bucolic Sherman Connecticut. At least that’s what her husband Dominick told the state police. He said that two before she vanished, he had filed for divorce from her on grounds of abandonment, that she had left without any warning at all and had taken a hundred thousand dollars in cash and other expensive goods, left her wedding ring and car keys behind on the kitchen counter and left before he got home from work.
The only reason anyone beside the Dominic knew that Mary was missing was that her daughter, Sherrie, dropped by the house to visit and found no one home. However, her mother’s 1982 Chevy Cavalier was parked in the driveway and its driver's side windshield was smashed.
Photo credit Autumn Driscoll
When Dominic Badaracco arrived home he told Sherrie "Your mother left. She took some money I had buried around the house and she took off" and then told her to clear her mother’s remaining belongings out of the house. However when Sherrie looked in her mother’s bedroom, all of her belongings were already gone.
"Something was not right. She wouldn't do that" Sherrie later said. “My first thought was, 'How did she take off if she didn't have her car?' "
Her daughter Mary added “We knew something bad happened to her. I know my mother, and there's no way she would just leave. She didn't just drive away and never come back. Nobody believed that.”
Badaracco also told his step daughter “Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell your sister. My lawyer will handle everything.”
Instead Sherrie and her sister Beth went to the Southbury state police barracks and reported their mother missing. The trooper on duty had them file a missing person’s report and the following day a trooper and a state police detective, who knew Dominic Badaracco and was friendly with him, went to the Badaracco home and interviewed Dominic who stuck by his story that Mary had run off without reason.
When the trooper pointed the smashed window in Mary's Cavalier that was still in the driveway, Badaracco admitted that he had smashed the windshield in a fit anger. The car wasn’t seized as evidence because at the time there was no indication of crime. But that proved to be a mistake. The car, with any evidence it may have held, eventually disappeared the next day and, like Mary, has never been seen since.
Mary Badaracco was an amateur painter, an animal lover, worked part time cleaning houses for a local realtor. She was very close to her daughters, spoke to them several times a day by phone and was overjoyed at the birth for her first grandchild.
Mary was born one of eleven children and dropped out of Danbury High School to marry at age 16. After their divorce she worked as a bartender which is how she met Dominic Badaracco.
Also born and raised in Danbury, Dominic Badaracco’s mother died and younger brother died of cancer within three years of each other when he was still a child. He grew up hard and worked as a landscaper, laborer and eventually as a truck driver for the Danbury Public Works Department in the early 1960s. Divorced with four children he became a building contractor and did well enough to invest in several bars. He met Mary when she came to work for him as a barmaid in one of his saloons.
About six months before Mary vanished, she and Dominic moved bought a new home, a large Colonial on five acres of land. They gutted the house and basically rebuilt it and filled it with all new furniture. They seemed happier and at peace, a big difference from the way thing had been between them for decades.
Photo by John Pirro
Mary’s daughters said that Dominic never accepted them, referring to them as “your children”. One of the girls said that Dominic was “always in charge, and very domineering. If he said not do something, we didn’t do it. My mom was always trying to protect us.”
If the children disobeyed, any of the children, Dominic spanked them with a thick wooden paddle that had a list of the kid’s name son it. A check mark was placed next to each name indicting the number of times they had been beaten with the paddle. On other occasions, he beat the children with a belt.
According to her daughters, Mary said that Dominic cheated on her for years. She had left him because of it several times, but in the end, she always returned and, also according to her daughters “he (Dominic) would only give her (Mary) her the exact dollar amount of the bills and the exact dollar amount to feed eight. He was very controlling of the money. As soon as I got my car, I would sleep in it to be safe.”
Mary’s daughter Sherrie said, during outbursts of anger, her stepfather would sometimes get physical with her mother, throw food from the cabinets, rip the phone from the wall, and break plates. . In one occasion, Sherrie walked in on her stepfather sitting at the table with a large carving knife and fork before him and a clearly shaken and nervous mother who yelled for her daughter to go the neighbor's house. When Sherrie returned to the house, she saw that her mother’s arms were covered in cuts.
Mary’s other daughter, Beth says, “We thought we were the whacked out version of the Brady Bunch. We almost never brought anybody into the house because we never knew what would happen. The first time I brought my husband to the house Dominic ripped the phone out of the wall because his son was making long distance phone calls.” And added that "When she knew (a beating) was coming, she would shuffle us off to other people's houses to protect us. But we would see the aftermath when we came home. The house would be trashed and she would be bruised."
Dom Badaracco's former brother-in-law, the late Joseph Dinho told the state police that "Over the years that Dom and Mary went together and when they were married, they had numerous fights, and many a time Dom knocked out Mary's false teeth. But they always stayed together and worked things out,"
His fits of anger extended behind his family. In July 1999, two Badaracco employees, claimed Badaracco threatened to kill them when he saw them talking to another contractor in a parking lot.
During the trial of the man accused of killing Dominic Badaracco Jr., Badaracco allegedly shouted, "When my son's trial is over, it's going to be a pool of blood, and it's going to be yours"
Nine months after Mary disappeared, Dominic Badaracco testified in court that he and Mary were intending to divorce, that Mary had agreed to leave the house and give up the home in return for approximately $100,000.
What he had left out of his statement was that shortly before she disappeared, Mary found out Dominic was having another affair and said that she intended to use that and his physical and mental abuse as ground for divorce. Weeks before she disappeared she quit claimed the house to her husband for $1.00.
It didn’t matter. In the end, Dominic got his way. Mary was legally declared dead and he was granted a divorce by the courts. Then he married his girlfriend, Joan. She and her two sons had moved into the house two weeks after Mary vanished with Dominic explaining to the police that she was cohabitating with him rather she was his tenant in the property.
In 1990, Mary’s daughter’s contacted state Representative Lynn Taborsak who successfully lobbied state police to reclassify the case from a missing person to a homicide which in turn led to a grand jury investigation.
Dominic Badaracco met Ronald "Rocky" Richter while working at the contracting business owned by Badaracco's brother-in-law and decided to team up after he died to form Richter and Badaracco Siding Co. The partnership dissolved after almost 27 years.
Ronald Rocky Richter
Richter has an odd series of arrests on his rap sheet that includes assault and gambling charges. Richter golfed with Superior Court Judge Robert C. Brunetti. The two had known each other since childhood and used to caddy together at a private golf course in Danbury. It was through Richter that Judge Brunetti met Dominic Badaracco. Both men knew the judge as “Bruns” and both men used Brunetti as their private attorney when he was in private practice.
A grand jury probe into the disappearance of Mary Badaracco was opened in 2010 and held inside the New Britain, Connecticut, Supreme Court. Connecticut’s grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret and all that Dominic Badaracco was able to find out was that 62 people had been brought in as witnesses and he needed to know more.
It so happened that Judge Brunetti worked in the same court building and telephone records subpoenaed by state police show that Richter and Brunetti spoke on the phone six times in October 2010. In at least one of those conversations Richter told the judge he wanted to know what the judge could tell him about the investigation to which Brunetti said he didn't know anything. Richter later called Brunetti again and asked once more about the grand jury and again the judge said he didn't know anything, which was true.
Judge Robert Brunetti
Then, on November. 17, 2010 Dominic Badaracco called the judge asked for "help", he was using Richter's cellphone. Finally Badaracco said "I'm only going to say this one time. It's worth a hundred Gs."
The judge immediately ended the call and contacted his lawyer who instructed him to inform the authorities. The judge then called the deputy chief court administrator and then the Chief State's Attorney who ordered a tap placed on Brunetti's phone lines.
The tap collected more evidence about the alleged bribe attempt including a phone conversation between the judge, Badaracco and Richter and proved that Badaracco had withdrawn more than $100,000 from his bank accounts in November of 2010 allegedly to bribe the judge.
Badaracco was arrested April 16 on charges of bribery and offering an illegal gift. Badaracco was convicted of bribery and sentenced to seven years in jail last year. Richter was given immunity from prosecution for his testimony. Judge Brunetti was able to retire quickly with a full pension. The Judicial Review Council voted not to discipline him for his misconduct.
Dominic’s son, Joseph Badaracco, a Hell’s Angels member, was sent to prison after hiring two men to firebomb a bar owned by one of his rivals. A while later, Badaracco's other son, Dominic Jr., was shot to death in a bar on Super Bowl Sunday in 1997.
The Badaracco’s were widely known to police. In one three year period Dominic or Joe Badaracco, allegedly threatened or assaulted other contractors who bid against their father for work and former employees who had fallen on their bad side. No charges were brought against them.
In 1986, a member of the Bridgeport Connecticut chapter of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang entered the federal witness protection program and told the police, that Mary was killed after unnamed members of the Bridgeport chapter of the Hell’s Angels Gang issued a contract on her life. Joe Badaracco, Dominick’s sons is a member of the Bridgeport chapter. His rap sheet includes arrests for assault, larceny and criminal mischief.
Police suspected that Joey Badaracco and another gang member named Steve Kendall murdered Mary Badaracco at Dominick Badaracco request after she threatened to go to tell the police about husband alleged illegal activities that the father and son were involved in.
Kendall, a former convict, took and failed a lie detector test with the polygraph examiner telling police that Kendall had lied when he said he never saw Mary Badaracco and didn't know if any member of the motorcycle gang had killed her. Kendall was eventually killed in a motorcycle accident.
Further, the informant said that a man named Ernie Dachenhausen, a Danbury, Connecticut excavation contractor who occasionally worked for Dominic Badaracco, had buried Mary Badaracco's car in the backyard of Dachenhausen’s former home in Newtown, near the New York border. Then Lee Jupina, a career criminal and snitch phoned police and said that one night he was in a place Abe’s bar in Danbury, Connecticut and overheard Dachenhausen talking about burying a car for Dominic Badaracco.
Jupina was stabbed to death in a New Milford Connecticut motel room in 2016 by persons unknown.
Based on that, state police just over $35,000 digging up that yard and another once owned by the contractor but to no avail. However, in New Fairfield property where Dachenhausen once worked police used ground-penetrating radar to search for clues. Eventually Dachenhausen admitted burying “three or four cars” on property he owned in Newtown around the time Mary Badaracco disappeared which the police uncovered and told the cops where he buried the cars. However everything he said was a lie, no cars were found and Dachenhausen was arrested for interfering with the murder investigation by supplying bad information.
Eventually the cops did uncovered three buried cars on property owned or used by Dachenhausen and of the cars was a blue Cavalier but not a match with Mary’s missing car.
Dachenhausen went on trial in April 2009 for interfering with the investigation but was, remarkably, acquitted ending any hopes of using a conviction to get more information out of him about the whereabouts of Mary’s body.
Western Connecticut District Major Crime Squad Detective Joseph Bukowski identified Dominic Badaracco as the chief suspect in his wife's death and a $50,000 reward has been posted for any information to solve the question of Mary’s whereabouts.
Otherwise, life goes on. Dominic’s son Joe moved to New York State where he operates Four Winds Farm in the town of Gardiner. When a reporter asked him about statements in state police reports that he murdered Mary Badaracco at the request of his father, he responded "Let them prove it"
In 2016, Dominic Badaracco, now 80, was released from prison after serving three years for attempting to bribe Judge Brunetti. He’ll be fine. According to his third wife, Joan, Badaracco has a net worth of at least $1.5 million.