Then-Gov. John G. Rowland quickly second-guessed Dearington's five-month investigation and called for a grand jury probe of the case.
What no one knew at the time is that Dearington already had requested that a grand jury look into the shooting. His request had been denied.
Grand jury proceedings are secret in Connecticut. Dearington's disclosure of his request could have resulted in his being held in contempt of court.
"Rather than defend himself, he kept his mouth shut and took a lot of criticism, even from the governor," said a court official with knowledge of the case, who asked not to be identified.
"Other prosecutors might have tried to leak the fact that they tried to get a grand jury, but he followed the law. This is a guy who really believes in the law. He's quiet and methodical when he needs to be and very professional about how he practices it."
It's this low-key and deliberate approach Dearington has taken with him into the courtroom for nearly four decades when prosecuting killers and other criminals, a style colleagues say he doesn't alter for emotionally charged and widely publicized cases like the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial, which starts Monday.
"When Mike handles a tough case, you would never know it was tough by watching him," said Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane. "He takes things in stride. He doesn't say a lot, but what he says is worth saying."
The stakes in the Komisarjevsky case are a lot higher than they normally are in cases Dearington prosecutes. Komisarjevsky, 31, of Cheshire, faces the death penalty, a punishment Dearington has rarely sought in his 25 years as the top prosecutor in New Haven's judicial district.
Though he is coming off the heels of just having sent Komisarjevsky's co-defendant, Steven Hayes, to death row, observers say Dearington may have more of a fight on his hands this time as aggressive defense attorneys try to distance Komisarjevsky from the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, during a July 23, 2007, invasion of their Cheshire home.
The defense will try vigorously to convince jurors that a troubled childhood and other aspects of Komisarjevsky's personal life should spare him execution.
A Photo And Two Memorials
Last week, while seated in his no-frills office cluttered with file boxes piled on tables and on the floor, Dearington, 69, of Madison, declined to talk about trial strategy and just about anything else having to do with the case.
A court-imposed gag order prohibits parties from talking publicly about the case, and in any event Dearington is notoriously tight-lipped.
Not far from Dearington's desk, thumbtacked on his wall were several photos. Some show family. Some show him posing and shaking hands with people.
And one displays a smiling Hawke-Petit standing with Hayley and Michaela. Two newspaper memorials to the mother and daughters also were posted there.
"I don't discuss this case," Dearington said. "It's not about me."
Born in Providence, and raised in Danielson, Dearington followed in the legal footsteps of his father and great uncle, who were both head prosecutors in Windham County.
He studied economics at Trinity College in Hartford and received his law degree from American University in Washington, D.C., in 1967. He was drafted into the Army the following year and remained for two years while stationed in Virginia.