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Suspect charged in death of jogger found on property of Big Bird actor
DANIELSON, Conn. -- A property caretaker was charged with murder Wednesday in the death of a jogger whose battered and bound body was found in a shed owned by the "Sesame Street" actor who plays Big Bird.
Under the capital murder count, prosecutors can seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole for Scott Deojay, 36.
Deojay told police he accidentally hit Judith Nilan with his car Dec. 12 and panicked, according to a sworn statement. Deojay hid her body on puppeteer Caroll Spinney's property, where he worked as a caretaker, according to state police, who said Spinney had no involvement.
But state police said Nilan's injuries were not consistent with being hit by a car, and authorities ruled her death a homicide.
At a court hearing Wednesday, Deojay's bond was increased to $2 million from $510,000, which had been set when he was charged with only kidnapping. Prosecutor Patricia M. Froehlich declined to comment on whether she would seek the death penalty.
Deojay's attorney, Ramon Canning, argued that Nilan's injuries might have been inconsistent with being hit by a car but not with being run over by a car.
Nilan, 44, a school social worker, disappeared while jogging near her Woodstock home. A police affidavit said her body was found bound, with her running pants pulled down, and that she appeared to have been beaten about the head.
Deojay told police he dragged her into his car after hitting her and only tied the rope around her to hoist her into the shed, according to an affidavit.
Canning said that explains the bound wrists and ankles and how her pants came down. He argued that police added those details "because they want to be sensational" and said they should have described the investigation as a vehicular homicide with an attempt to hide the body.
Deojay wasn't immediately charged with murder because of questions about jurisdiction. Nilan's body was found on a part of Spinney's property that straddles the state lines of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Massachusetts officials agreed to let Connecticut handle the charges.
Deojay, of Plainfield, is due back in court Feb. 15.