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Ex-Hillsborough principal could plead guilty to two Pinellas murders, avoid death penalty

A Monday court hearing has been scheduled for former middle school principal Anthony J. Giancola, who could plead guilty to two murders to avoid the death penalty.

Attorneys have said a plea deal was being discussed in previous court hearings. Court officials announced the new hearing on Friday.

Under the arrangement that has been discussed in court, Giancola would plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder for fatally stabbing Justin Lee Vandenburgh, 27, and Mary Anne Allis, 59.

He would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and prosecutors would agree to drop the death penalty. Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett confirmed such a discussion is under way but nothing would be official until Monday's hearing.

Giancola once was a rising star in Hillsborough schools, becoming principal of Van Buren Middle School. But his personal life plummeted as he struggled with a cocaine addiction, which culminated in 2007 with his highly publicized and shocking arrest. He bought $200 worth of cocaine from an undercover office while in his school office.

Afterward, he continued to struggle. He worked at the SPCA as part of his community service, but lost the job. He went into rehab at the Salvation Army and got a job there, but lost it too. He moved into his mother's home and took a job at a pizzeria.

Then, in 2012, Giancola was again arrested after a deadly rampage through mid Pinellas County that is still not fully understood. He is accused of stabbing four people in a group home for the hearing impaired on 35th Way N in the Lealman area. Two of them died. He also is accused of beating two others with a hammer, slamming his car into four more, and running over a 13-year-old boy on a bicycle. Police do not think he knew any of the people who were stabbed.

Ex-Hillsborough principal could plead guilty to two Pinellas murders, avoid death penalty 09/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, September 6, 2013 10:13pm]

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