Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Drug-addled former middle school principal gets six life sentences for deadly rampage

LARGO

On her way to court to see her mother's killer sentenced, Jamie Raulerson wanted something simple, an explanation.

She wanted to know why Anthony J. Giancola, a drug-addled former middle school principal, killed two people he didn't know. She wanted to know what prompted him to stab and beat and try to run over six others last year during a bizarre rampage in mid Pinellas County.

"I was told this morning in court that he doesn't have to tell me why; he can take that to his grave," Raulerson said.

Giancola pleaded guilty Monday to two murders, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery. In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. He was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences, plus 30 years.

Giancola, once a rising star in the Hillsborough school system, made national news in 2007 when he bought cocaine from an undercover officer in his school office. He told police at the time he was addicted to cocaine. But the reason why he snapped so violently last year and went on a seemingly random one-day crime wave remain murky.

There were vague references in court Monday to an unspecified mental illness. Giancola also made strange statements himself after he killed: He told officers he had just been raped and he told his mother she'd be proud of him because he "killed 10 drug dealers."

But after Monday's hearing, Assistant State Attorney Tom Koskinas said he doesn't believe either of those statements.

"I really don't believe that he truly believed that he killed drug dealers," said Koskinas, who suspects those statements are more like "his excuse or justification for that after the fact."

Authorities never uncovered any evidence that Giancola was raped.

At Monday's hearing, the gray-haired Giancola, now 46, was dressed in blue jail scrubs with a white long john shirt underneath. He did not apologize or make a statement. When he answered questions from Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane Covert, who wanted to make sure Giancola understood the proceedings and was satisfied with his legal representation from the Public Defender's Office, Giancola seemed alert and spoke clearly.

"A big part of me is glad that it's done and it's over," said Jennifer Waterman, whose son Justin Lee Vandenburgh, 29, was killed by Giancola. "Another part feels like he didn't get what he deserved."

Vandenburgh's aunt Deborah Clem said she was "just appalled at the fact that they gave him a choice to get a life sentence instead of the death penalty."

"He didn't give my nephew that choice. He didn't give Mary Anne that choice. He didn't lean over them and say, 'Would you like to live? Would you like to see your daughter again? Would you like to go see your mom for holidays?' "

Others thought Giancola's sentence was appropriate.

"I feel like the death penalty would have been too easy," said Sherwin Petrucelli, 36, whose mother, Mary Anne Allis, 59, was killed by Giancola. "I feel like him sitting in prison thinking about what he did … it's the best outcome."

He said his mother was "a great woman, a great spirit. I feel like she's still here with me. … I pray for the victims and everybody else, because it's not just my mom."

Giancola stabbed four people in a home with several hearing-impaired residents on 35th Way N in the Lealman area. Two — Vandenburgh and Allis — died from their injuries. He also beat two others with a hammer at a different scene, slammed his car into four people sitting in front of a house, and ran over a 13-year-old boy on a bicycle.

Police do not think he knew any of the victims.

Although Giancola's fate now seems assured, the question of why remains.

"I wish we could answer for the next of kin," Koskinas said. "Nobody will ever be able to answer that question. I honestly think that's the barrier between them and closure in this case, and it's unfortunate. It really is."

Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.

   
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