Attempted murder of estranged Stamford wife upheld by CT Supreme Court
STAMFORD — The state’s highest court has upheld the conviction of a Stamford man who tried to hire a hit man — who turned out to be an undercover cop — to kill his estranged wife and mother of his two children.
The justices affirmed the conviction of Daniel Buzzeo despite the fact that he was arrested before money changed hands between him and the undercover officer, who videoed the exchange that included Buzzeo showing a picture of his wife holding one of their children right after giving birth at Stamford Hospital.
Buzzeo, 42, was convicted of attempted murder by a Stamford jury during a 2013 trial. He was sentenced to spend 15 years in prison by the presiding judge in the case Judge Bruce Hudock. Buzzeo is being held at the Robinson Correctional Institution in Enfield and is scheduled to be released in August 2025.
At his sentencing, Hudock said the fact that the hit man was really a police officer did not matter significantly because in Buzzeo’s mind he was hiring a killer.
“Your agreement was with Satan, and Satan moves at his own pace,” Hudock said. “Society cannot accept this kind of behavior.”
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Maureen Ornousky prosecuted the case and at his sentencing said Buzzeo never realized the gravity and severity of his actions on that night when he tried to hire the hit man.
Ornousky said she was pleased by the state Supreme Court’s decision on the case.
“Obviously I think it is the correct decision and I’m thankful that we finally have the matter resolved,” she said. “The Stamford Police Department did a fantastic job and made this conviction possible.”
Buzzeo’s criminal defense attorney, Philip Russell, said he and Buzzeo are looking at their options following the decision.
“The result was disappointing. We believe Justice (Steven) Ecker heard our plea and understood our claim. It is probably no coincidence that among the other justices he is the one with criminal defense experience,” Russell said. Ecker filed a dissenting opinion in the case.
Last September, Russell spent an hour before the Supreme Court justices in Hartford arguing that his client never took the “substantial step” necessary to kill his wife and therefore should have the conviction overturned. Russell told the justices that in this case, “the sole basis for the conviction was his speech.” Russell said he would not be arguing the case if Buzzeo had given the officer posing as a New York hit man any money to kill his wife.
But in the court’s majority decision released late last week, they recount the large amount of information that Buzzeo relayed to the supposed hit man about the woman with whom he was near end of a very contentious divorce.
The two discussed the manner, method and price to best “effectuate” the murder. Buzzeo agreed to pay $10,000 for the hit and gave up his wife’s name, home address, that she worked at Stamford Hospital, her work hours and the route she drove to work.
When the undercover officers asked how he wanted it done, Buzzeo said he wanted it to look like a carjacking. Buzzeo said the hospital was in a tough section of town. He also instructed the officer to steal the car to make it look good.
‘’Just so (you) know, I’m going to put two in that bitch’s head and take that car and be gone, and I’ll f------ burn it somewhere,” the undercover told him in the car, according to transcripts of the conversation. Buzzeo said that made sense to him.
Because Buzzeo said he would probably be a suspect, he told the undercover officer he needed an alibi. Buzzeo said he frequently watched his children while at a relative’s house. When the undercover said he could make the hit when he was watching his kids, Buzzeo said, “Exactly.”
During the trial, the jury saw a video of the conversation that took place in the parking lot of the southbound Interstate 95 rest area in Darien. This, according to a majority of the Supreme Court justices, meant they were able to make a valid judgment.
“There was more than ample evidence from which the jury could have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to murder (his estranged wife) and, by hiring a hit man, took a substantial step to achieve that goal,” the Supreme Court decision said.
In his dissenting opinion, Ecker said Buzzeo did not take the substantial step necessary for his conviction.
“The damning ‘’actions’’ identified by the majority involve nothing more than the basic acts physically necessary to hold such meetings — the defendant drove his car, provided information to identify the would-be victim, and shared other basic information to begin planning the crime,” Ecker wrote. “There is no evidence that the defendant conducted any surveillance, obtained or furnished a weapon, ‘cased’ the potential crime scene to test the viability of a plan, or took any actions, beyond mere solicitation, to implement his murder-for-hire idea.”