NEW PORT RICHEY — Damian Ficarra smiled after being found guilty Friday of murdering Michelle Ficarra, his wife of 25 years. In June 2010, he beat her in the head and face and left her bleeding on their living room floor. After she was dead, he duct-taped her corpse to a moving dolly and rolled her body to their Port Richey garage, where he stored her for a day, possibly two, until her son discovered his mother's remains.
"I'm fine," Ficarra told his lawyer, as they huddled moments after the verdict. Ficarra, 56, seemed calm and at peace.
He didn't take the stand in his own defense. His lawyers called no witnesses to testify on Ficarra's behalf.
During the three-day trial, prosecutors played a recording of a phone call Ficarra made from jail to his brother. Ficarra spoke of life in jail and how maddeningly time stretches on.
"You sit and you sit and you sit," he said. "And you think about what you've done over and over and over and over."
Ficarra said he couldn't go into details, but then he said this:
"It's kind of hard to wrap your head around," Ficarra said. "You know, being the person that did it.
"It's not something you get away with."
His attorneys said Michelle Ficarra — an obese, 53-year-old woman of poor health who had alcohol in her system when she died — lost her balance, toppled and hit her head while the two argued about their home being in foreclosure.
"She could have fallen on the damn buffet table for all I know," Damian Ficarra told Port Richey Officer Robert Kern in a taped interview taken June 24, 2010, the day his wife's body was found. A recording of the interview was played for jurors.
The Ficarras had been a couple for nearly three decades. The last years were miserable ones, Ficarra said. His lawyers said he didn't kill his wife, he just hated her so much he didn't do anything when he saw her motionless on their floor.
"She just screams a lot," Ficarra said in the interview. "So it's like, 'I don't need to listen to this.' I just sat back on the couch like I always do."
He said he turned up the TV and ignored her tantrum until the house was silent.
"Did she hit her head on anything?" Kern asked.
"I don't know. I wasn't paying attention," Ficarra said. "When she shut up that was great. It was like, 'Thank God.' "
Chief Medical Examiner Noel Palma testified that Michelle Ficarra had at least five separate injuries to her head and face by fists or an unknown blunt object. He ruled her death a homicide and said her injuries could not have happened from falling. Palma was unable to determine how slowly or quickly she died.
Though Ficarra denied killing her, he made this statement during the interview:
"It was that easy," he said of her death. "That fast and that quick."
Ficarra said he hid her body in the garage because he was afraid he would be blamed for her death.
Kern asked why he strapped her body to a handcart.
"I couldn't get her fat a-- out of the f---ing living room," Ficarra said matter-of-factly.
In his closing statement, Assistant Public Defender Dean Livermore urged jurors to use their "common sense" to find Ficarra not guilty.
"They were arguing. She was drunk. She fell. She hit her head. Did he do anything to cause that? No," Livermore said. "Is it detestable that he didn't do anything afterwards? Yeah. But he didn't do anything to cause her death."
The jury deliberated for less than two hours Friday before finding Ficarra guilty of second-degree murder. He faces life in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 2.
"We know what the truth was," said Assistant State Attorney Bryan Sarabia in his closing argument. "He beat her until she was down on the ground and not getting up anymore.
"The defense said he behaved detestably. Yes, he did," Sarabia continued. "He behaved like you do when you have just killed your wife and you don't know what to do about it."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.