LARGO — A judge ruled on Friday that an Army major accused of killing his wife's ex-husband can be released from the Pinellas County Jail on $2.5 million bail.
Roman Izzo, 36, faces a first-degree murder charge in the shooting and stabbing death of Vincent Lee, 43.
It's highly unusual locally for a first-degree murder defendant to get a chance to be released on bail. But Izzo's attorney, Steve Romine, successfully argued that prosecutors had not followed the steps necessary to keep Izzo behind bars without bail.
If he can make bail, Izzo would have to wear an ankle monitor and remain in Pinellas County. But those restrictions did little to soothe Chris Lee, the brother of Vincent Lee.
"We're all shocked, basically," Chris Lee said. "We feel like if he's going to get out he's going to run. We could all possibly be in danger."
Izzo is married to Vincent Lee's ex-wife, Jodi. She and Izzo wanted to move the two children she shared with Lee out of state, but a judge would not allow it. Izzo was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., at the time. Later, in November 2011, Lee was found dead in his Clearwater apartment, having been killed in particularly brutal fashion — shot five times, stabbed 10 times and his throat slit.
At a hearing in March, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Chris Helinger denied bail for Izzo, despite support from Army officers and family members who testified on his behalf. An Army lieutenant colonel even said Izzo could return to a Kansas Army garrison with pay if he was released on bail.
In that earlier hearing, Helinger said releasing Izzo would not be appropriate. She noted that he had "no ties whatsoever to Pinellas County," a key point when evaluating whether someone will actually return to court for prosecution. Also, though his attorney noted that Izzo had cooperated with authorities, Helinger said his attitude could change given that he could be "facing the death penalty." Prosecutors have not formally announced if they intend to seek Izzo's execution.
But more recently, Romine argued in motions and in court that there are only narrow circumstances in which someone can be held without bail, and that they did not apply to Izzo.
People accused of murder and a few other crimes can be held without bail when "proof is evident or the presumption is great" — an extremely high legal standard that means someone's guilt is virtually proved. An order from Helinger this week said "the state is unable to meet their burden" under that standard.
People also can be held without bail under what is known as "pretrial detention" if the state proves that certain conditions exist, such as when a suspect has intimidated witnesses. Helinger concluded that Izzo "does not satisfy any of the enumerated circumstances."
Izzo remained in the jail on Friday night.