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Jurors begin deliberating in Neo-Nazi murder case

Kraig Constantino, jailed with John Ditullio, testified on Tuesday that “he pretty much just said that he was guilty.”

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Kraig Constantino, jailed with John Ditullio, testified on Tuesday that “he pretty much just said that he was guilty.”

NEW PORT RICHEY — Jurors hearing the murder case of John Ditullio now know all about his white supremacist beliefs, his racist writings and his outlaw lifestyle while living with a group of American Nazis.

The only thing left is to determine his guilt or innocence.

Did he put on a gas mask on March 23, 2006, go to the next-door neighbor's house and stab two people? Or is he being framed by the neo-Nazis he thought were his brothers?

Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis, in his closing argument Tuesday, said that for Ditullio, 24, to not be guilty, jurors would have to believe an incredible series of coincidences.

That when Ditullio composed numerous letters about shooting police, taking responsibility for his actions and even hiding a knife, he wasn't talking about this case.

That when a knife was found in a location Ditullio had described, it wasn't the murder weapon.

That the victim's blood found on his boot was a result of contamination by a DNA analyst.

"It's just one coincidence after another after another," Halkitis said.

Ditullio's attorney, on the other hand, said the evidence in the case was peppered with "snapshots of innocence" that give rise to reasonable doubt.

The lack of Ditullio's DNA in the victim's house. The tainted blood evidence. The victim's description of her attacker — blond and 5 feet 8 vs. the brown-haired, 6-foot-tall Ditullio.

"The description doesn't match. Never will, never did," Bjorn Brunvand said.

Ditullio was vying for full membership in the American Nazi group on Teak Street near Hudson in 2006. They hated next-door neighbor Patricia Wells, who had an African-American friend who visited her and a gay son.

After weeks of harassing Wells and her family, shouting slurs and threats, authorities say, Ditullio put on a gas mask, broke into Wells' home and stabbed her. Kristofer King, a 17-year-old friend of her son, was in the house and was stabbed to death. Wells recovered. Her son was not at home.

Ditullio went on trial last year, but the jury deadlocked, leaning 10-2 for acquittal. He could be given a death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Jurors are set to begin deliberating this morning.

One of the last witnesses called to testify against him was a man who lived for years in the same jail pods with Ditullio.

Kraig Constantino said that while incarcerated, Ditullio told him he committed the murder and that his only hope was a life sentence over the death penalty.

Constantino, a felon with a long history of arrests, said he felt compelled to come forward with what he knew after witnessing something disturbing in jail this year: Ditullio reaching through his cell bars and cutting another young man with a razor blade.

"It showed me that he had a proclivity for stabbing young boys," said Constantino, 41, although he acknowledged he never reported the attack. Ditullio was never charged with that alleged incident.

Halkitis asked if Ditullio offered any specifics about the Teak Street stabbings.

"At first he pretty much just said that he was guilty. They had him dead to rights," Constantino said. "He was just fighting for his life."

He said Ditullio later described the stabbings in more detail, and even had the crime scene photographs "proudly displayed" in his jail cell.

Constantino currently faces his own charges of aggravated battery. After he came forward in September with Ditullio's alleged confession, prosecutors agreed to let him be released from jail on his own recognizance. He had been held on $50,013 bail.

Before jurors left for the night, Halkitis and Brunvand both made a final remark about the thing that makes Ditullio, who has a swastika tattooed on his neck, so different from most defendants: his beliefs.

Said Halkitis: "I don't want you to convict the defendant because of his beliefs. I want you to convict the defendant because his beliefs give (him) the motivation of why he would do in Kris King and why he would attempt to do in Patricia Wells."

Said Brunvand: "If there is a reasonable doubt, despite the fact that you may dislike my client for the letters that he wrote … that does not make him a murderer."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com.

Jurors begin deliberating in Neo-Nazi murder case 12/14/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 10:51pm]
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