Standing outside his Nesconset home, mortgage broker Ronald Thornton seemed unemotional after detectives told him his friend and attorney had been found dead, a Suffolk homicide detective testified Monday in Riverhead.
"There was no response, no emotion at all," Det. Gerard McAlvin said at Thornton's murder trial in Suffolk County Court. "He didn't ask about where it happened" or when James DiMartino, 44, of Nesconset, was killed.
Prosecutors say Thornton, 39, paid three people about $10,000 to kill DiMartino because DiMartino knew about mortgage frauds perpetrated by Thornton.
He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy.
DiMartino was shot once in the head in a Commack parking lot on Oct. 20, 2008, prosecutors said.
Questioned Monday by Assistant District Attorney Nancy Clifford, McAlvin described details of the investigation that led to Thornton's arrest on Nov. 16, 2008.
During interviews with detectives after DiMartino's body was found, Thornton appeared to alter details of his activities on the day DiMartino was killed, McAlvin said.
At first, Thornton said he missed a meeting with DiMartino because he had a stomachache, he said. "He said he spent the day at a tanning salon that he and his fiancee owned" in St. James, McAlvin said.
The following day, Thornton said he had not planned to meet with DiMartino and had spent the day changing light bulbs at the tanning salon, McAlvin said.
Thornton initially said he last spoke on the phone with DiMartino at about 1 p.m., McAlvin said.
"But as the interview progressed, that changed to 2, 2:30, finally settling on shortly before 3 o'clock," he said.
Thornton's phone records led detectives to hotels and restaurants in Commack, where surveillance videos and interviews with workers led investigators to Thornton's three alleged accomplices, McAlvin said.
After one of them, Monique Randall, 30, of St. Albans, Queens, told police Thornton paid her to kill DiMartino, Thornton was arrested as he drove away from the tanning salon, McAlvin said.
Randall has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified last week against Thornton. Two men are awaiting trial on first-degree murder.
Thornton's attorney, Glenn Obedin of Central Islip, Monday asked McAlvin whether police have a list of the "proper emotions" a person should exhibit when a friend is killed.
Pointing to his head, McAlvin said, "I got it here, from 21 years of making notifications."