ROCHESTER — More than four years after she was convicted of murder for pushing her husband down a flight of stairs, an appeals court heard arguments Monday in the case of Rose Chase.
Judges from the Fourth Judicial Department of state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division heard brief oral arguments from Ontario County District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo and Rochester-area attorney Gary Muldoon, who is handling the appeal. Chase was represented at trial by Ontario County Public Defender Leanne Lapp.
In October 2013, Chase was convicted of second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and endangering the welfare of a child over the June 2012 death of her husband, Adam. After treating it as a missing-person case for months, sheriff’s office investigators said Chase killed Adam by pushing him down some stairs during an argument at their Mott Road home in Stanley, then covered up her crime by telling authorities he left home and didn’t want to be found.
About six months after Adam’s death, Chase confessed to a private investigator, Rodney Miller. She later told police in a videotaped confession that she hid Adam’s body in their basement for weeks after his death, then took the decomposed body parts to her mother’s home in the Yates County town of Potter, where she burned them in an outdoor fire pit.
Muldoon had two main arguments Monday — that Chase’s confession was not voluntary and Lapp was not given transcripts of text messages between Tantillo and a sheriff’s investigator for a suppression hearing on the confession. Muldoon said those texts, in which Tantillo told the investigator to be more “forceful” in his interview with Chase, should have been in play during the hearing.
“This is information that needed to be turned over. The prosecutor said it was ‘work product,’ but that is not work product,” Muldoon argued. “Ultimately, that is not a private conversation.”
Tantillo disagreed. He also noted that the jury saw the confession during the trial.
“That text was not a statement from the witness (police officer). It was a statement from me. It is utterly inconsequential in this case. I just asked the officer for the defendant to be a little more specific and for the officer to be a little more forceful,” he said. “The jury made the firsthand determination on whether it was a voluntary statement. It was a voluntary statement.”
In January 2014, Chase was sentenced by Ontario County Judge William Kocher to 23 years to life in prison on the murder count and another 11/3 to 4 years on the tampering charge. Chase was not given any more time on the endangering charge, which stemmed from Chase having the couple’s then 4-year-old son in her car while she took the body parts to Potter.
Chase, now 36, is incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women. She is not eligible for parole until 2037.
In the confession, Chase said the argument started when Adam confronted her about a cell-phone picture showing her kissing another man at Kershaw Park in Canandaigua. The photo was taken by a friend of Adam’s sister who was at the park, and the argument escalated when Chase told Adam he wasn’t their son’s biological father.
Chase said she couldn’t find Adam’s pulse after he fell down the stairs connecting the first and second floors of their home, so she put his body on a tarp and dragged it to the top of the basement stairs, where she pushed it to the cellar floor.
In the videotape, Chase at first says Adam fell down the stairs accidentally. She later admits giving him a push or shove.