Murder suspect says wife killed herself with rifle as he takes witness stand

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Murder suspect Jason P. D’Avolio spent this morning describing the “nightmare” of finding his wife dead in their upstairs bedroom and how his mind went “numb” as he cleaned up the scene to protect his children.

“I went upstairs and found that horrible nightmare,” D’Avolio said from the witness stand, denying that he had anything to do with the death of his wife, Kerrilee.

“I have no idea what caused it, why she did it.”

D’Avolio, age 48, of Rome, was mostly calm and straight forward as he testified for about two and a half hours this morning. He will be cross-examined by the District Attorney’s Office this afternoon. He is charged with one count each of second-degree murder and concealment of a human corpse, accused of shooting Kerrilee in the back of the head with a rifle on the night of July 28, 2019 and then throwing her body in a dumpster.

“Everything was normal” on the morning of July 28, D’Avolio told the jury. He said he and Kerrilee had even had sex that afternoon, calling it a “great weekend for us.”

He told the jury that Kerrilee helped put their three daughters to bed, and at some point he dozed off on the floor of the girls’ room. He said he did not hear any loud noises or gunshots that night. But when he went upstairs to check on his wife sometime after 11:30 p.m., “It was a nightmare.”

D’Avolio said he could not process what he was seeing at first. He heard his middle daughter coming up the stairs and he quickly stopped her and brought her back down to bed.

When he returned to the second floor bedroom, D’Avolio said, “I really didn’t understand” what he was looking at. He said he saw his wife lying on the bed, with a rifle on the floor alongside the bed. He said he saw her “mangled” head and the rifle and “I knew she had taken her life.”

“I had no rational thought. I went numb. I literally felt my head and my heart fall out of me,” D’Avolio testified.

“I ran up and I covered her with a sheet because I didn’t want to remember her like that. I couldn’t think. All I knew was my kids could not see this. I did not want my girls to know what happened.”

D’Avolio told the jury that he never considered calling 9-1-1 as he set to work cleaning up his wife’s body and the blood in the bedroom. He said he eventually took her body out to his van and put her in a dumpster at the nearby Bloomfield Garden Apartments.

“I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t know,” D’Avolio said when asked by his attorney why he put Kerrilee’s body in a dumpster.

He said he then drove to the Mill Street bridge and threw the rifle in the Barge Canal.

“I took that horrible, evil gun and I threw it in the water” so that nobody else could be hurt, he told the jury.

D’Avolio said he cleaned throughout the night, including a trip to Price Chopper to get more cleaning supplies. He said he helped his girls when they woke up the following morning, and he told them that their mother had gone out with someone else that evening, and had taken her mattress with her. He told the jury that he did not want his daughters to think Kerrilee’s death had anything to do with them.

Eventually, D’Avolio said he took his girls to see his brother, Christian D’Avolio, at his auto shop in New Hartford. D’Avolio told the jury what he told his brother:

“She left us. She took her life last night. She shot herself in the head. I don’t know what the girls are going to do without their mother.”

Christian D’Avolio passed away in June 2020 and he therefore he could not testify about what Jason told him. Whatever Jason told Christian, it prompted Christian to ask his boss to call 9-1-1, according to prior testimony in the trial.

Jason D’Avolio testified that he did not understand why the police soon arrived at the auto shop.

“I told them the same thing I told my daughters,” D’Avolio testified. “Everything was just going faster than I could process.”

D’Avolio was taken into custody and eventually interviewed by investigators. D’Avolio said he continued to lie to investigators, claiming that he did not know his wife’s whereabouts, because, “I didn’t want to accept the fact that she was gone. Everybody’s calling me a suspect for something I didn’t do.”

D’Avolio said he finally came clean after talking with his newly arrived attorney.

“It still feels like a bad dream. It still feels like it’s not real.”

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