Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sexton convicted in murder of 94-year-old Pasco woman

NEW PORT RICHEY — When the guilty verdict was read, the family of Ann Parlato called out. They held clutched hands. They held white tissues and cried. Behind them, deputies involved in the case quietly celebrated with pats and fists.

After hearing a week of testimony about the beating and mutilation of Parlato, 94, in her Port Richey home, the jurors deliberated for five hours on Friday and found her lawn maintenance man, John Sexton, guilty of first-degree murder. Because the death penalty is an option, court will reconvene Tuesday for the sentencing phase.

Sexton, 49, did not respond when the verdict was read. He walked out with his hands cuffed, bent over and took a drink of water, and then thanked his lawyers.

"We feel ecstatic and very pleased," said Parlato's neighbor, Dori Cifeli. "We're relieved."

"My aunt had strong religion," said niece Jeri Barr, "so she was ready to meet her maker. But she was not ready to leave the earth yet."

In his closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis described the evidence in the grisly September 2010 murder. He talked about how Parlato's next-door neighbors heard a loud noise after midnight, saw Sexton in the window of her home and wrote down the tag number of his truck.

Sexton told detectives he went to her house around sundown to ask for more maintenance work. He said he went to a bar and then drove around and drank a beer, and got home at 10:30 p.m. When detectives questioned him hours after Parlato's body was found, he asked his wife Catherine what time he got home. She told detectives it was 2 a.m.

Then Halkitis got into the physical evidence. The blood stains on Sexton's clothes and DNA under Sexton's cuticles and fingernails, all matching Parlato. The cigarette butt in Parlato's trash can with Sexton's DNA.

"This guy's not a rocket scientist," Halkitis said. "If he was a rocket scientist he would've closed the blinds. He wouldn't have left cigarette butts around the house."

Defense attorney Dustin Anderson said there were inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the evidence. He said the DNA from Sexton's clothes was compromised because the evidence was mishandled when it was put into a plastic bag and into the trunk of a hot car. He said Parlato's DNA could have gotten on Sexton's hands when he was doing her lawn and she fell, and he picked her up.

"We know she was prone to falling," he said.

He said Parlato could have found Sexton's cigarette butt in the yard and put it in the garbage can herself. As for the neighbors, Anderson said they didn't mention the front end damage to Sexton's truck when telling police about it, and neighbor Devilyn Saunders couldn't pick Sexton out of a photo lineup.

Sexton convicted in murder of 94-year-old Pasco woman 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 10:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  2. Spanish PM voices solidarity with Barcelona


    BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says his country is mourning in solidarity with the city of Barcelona and other cities in Europe that have been hit by deadly extremist attacks.

    An injured person is treated in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. [Associated Press]
  3. Confederate statue: Why Bucs, Lightning, Rays took a stand


    They didn't want another Charlottesville.

    Marc Rodriguez, a member of the "Florida Fight for $15" organization, stands in protest along with other activists demanding the Confederate  monument be removed from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Rep. Larry Ahern gets roughed up by Clearwater City Council

    State Roundup

    It seemed innocuous enough: an "end of session report" from state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, to the Clearwater City Council.

    Then Ahern got taken to the woodshed.

    Rep. Larry Ahern is vying for a seat on the Pinellas commission.
  5. Hillsborough County erects wooden barrier to protect Confederate monument from vandalism

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County workers began constructing a wooden barrier around the base of the Confederate monument by the old county courthouse Thursday evening.

    A Hillsborough County construction crew erects a wooden barrier around the Confederate monument at the old county courthouse Thursday, out of concern about potential vandalism. [Courtesy of WTSP]