NEW PORT RICHEY — After watching a videotaped confession Tuesday, a jury convicted Francis Sicola of armed burglary of a house in Fox Run one night in August 2008.
Later the same night, Pasco sheriff's investigators say, Sicola broke into another home nearby and shot and killed an 82-year-old World War II veteran who tried to stop him.
The murder case is pending. Sicola has pleaded not guilty.
In his armed burglary trial Tuesday, Sicola, 27, admitted in a recorded interview with detectives that he broke into the first house in search of money and cocaine. He said he thought it was the unoccupied home of a drug dealer.
He made no mention in the interview of an accomplice.
But when he took the witness stand Tuesday, he said he was hanging out and drinking beer at a family barbecue when his brother, Chris, told him about an empty house where there were drugs.
Sicola said the two of them rode there on their bicycles. He said he cut a screen door and held it open while his brother went inside.
"It wasn't maybe two seconds and the light came on," he said, and they fled on their bikes.
Sicola acknowledged wearing a ski mask, which was later found in the yard of the home. Prosecutors told the jury his DNA was found on the mask.
They also said Sicola was carrying a gun. He denied that, saying he had a Leatherman multi-tool.
The jury found him guilty only of carrying a deadly weapon (not a firearm) and determined he did wear a mask.
He faces the possibility of life in prison when he is sentenced later.
Sicola was living in Yadkinville, N.C., that August. He said he had come to Port Richey, where he grew up, to help his mother move into a new house. With the ski mask DNA in hand, sheriff's detectives went to North Carolina months later to interview him about the burglary and the death of Joseph Wido, 82.
Wido and his wife were in bed in their Timber Oaks home when a man appeared with a red bandanna over his face, investigators say. When Wido tried to stop the burglar, telling him "I can take you on," he was shot.
Wido's wife, Bobbe, was tied up and left on the floor next to her dying husband while the burglar ransacked the house. A neighbor rescued her the next morning after hearing her cries for help.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.