Everything one Fairfield woman thought she knew about life has changed disturbingly and dramatically in the last month.
“Who was I living with for 17 years? Who was this man?” Robert Hathaway’s wife said, declining to be identified herself.
The woman’s husband – her childrens’ father – is now dead after committing suicide and has been identified through DNA as the hidden killer of Priscilla Lee Strole.
His identity was hidden for 30 years.
His wife wants Strole’s family and the rest of the world to know one thing.
“I didn’t know nothing. Oh my god. If I did, I’d be the first one to tell police,” she said.
Now a place of safety and security for another family, a house in the 900 block of Buchanan street is the home where Strole was raped and beaten to death in 1983.
Her broken body was first discovered by her 15-year-old son.
Cold case investigators say Hathaway was a 17-year-old acquaintance of her son at the time and had visited the house.
He lived just one street away.
“He was never an investigative lead or person of interest until 2012,” Fairfield Police Sergeant Troy Oviatt said.
That’s when detectives re-ran fingerprints found at the scene and came up with something they couldn’t have in 1983 – a match to a burglary case Hathaway committed in 1986.
“Thirty years ago there was no constant comparison with unknown fingerprints. Today there is,” said Oviatt, crediting that advance in computer technology with pushing this case forward.
The match led detectives to a February 11th meeting with Hathaway in which he refused to provide a cheek swab DNA sample until he was forced to by a search warrant.
“He was visibly nervous, began sweating profusely,” said Oviatt.
Four days later, a wife separated from him hadn’t heard from him and family members discovered he’d hung himself at his home.
He left behind a note that said he was “taking the coward’s way out.”
Five days after that his DNA proved he’d taken Priscilla Strole’s life.
His wife says he’d always encouraged their children to stand up and take responsibility for anything they did wrong.
She can’t believe the pain he’s caused for Strole’s family and his own.
“Every day since the day he passed away has been hell.”