LARGO — A 12-person jury found a 61-year-old man guilty Friday of brutally beating his daughter's boyfriend to death with a hammer and then setting fire to his own home to cover up the murder.
Daniel Papaleo was found guilty of second-degree murder and arson. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 11.
Several hours of closing arguments in the morning laid out two theories of how Robert Greaves, 33, was killed the night of May 1, 2013.
Assistant State Attorney Tony Carlow said the evidence wove a clear narrative of what happened: Papaleo lured Greaves to his home for a staged meeting to talk about employment opportunities, beat him to death with a hammer and lit his residence in the Euclid-St. Paul neighborhood ablaze to cover up the crime.
He referenced a 45-minute recorded statement Papaleo gave police the night of the fire — a "bad book on tape," Carlow called it — in which the defendant told a tale of a "dirty, scrubby, pathetically skinny man" named Joe, or maybe Yo, who was a friend of the victim. Greaves and the friend, who arrived at the home uninvited and unannounced, got in a dispute over money, Papaleo said. That's what led to the man beating Greaves with the hammer. The man then threatened Papaleo, he said, placing three knives on the kitchen counter and saying, "We're gonna play quick-draw, cowboy."
Then the friend lit the house on fire.
But Carlow said that story contradicted the facts. Detectives found no evidence another man was at the home, and phone records revealed that Papaleo and Greaves had exchanged one text message and three phone calls in the hours before. A neighbor's testimony indicated that Papaleo's behavior was odd and he seemed out of breath at about the time of the murder, Carlow said. A red plastic gas can was melted to the floor in the Florida room where Greaves' body was recovered.
"We know Bob didn't beat him with a hammer," Carlow said, pointing at Papaleo, who sat in a tan suit. "Bob didn't pour gas, folks. Bob was dead. Yo didn't pour gas. There is no Yo."
Carlow accused Papaleo of flipping the script, referencing a letter the defendant sent his ex-wife from jail admitting to killing Greaves in self-defense.
Assistant Public Defender Dwight Wolfe agreed the "Yo story" was farfetched. Instead, he blamed Greaves' death on the victim's blood alcohol content, which was three times over the threshold for intoxication at the time of the murder.
"That's really why we're here," he said. "That's why the events occurred."
Wolfe said Papaleo must have been forced to ward off an enraged and drunken Greaves. His theory had Papaleo reneging on his job offer, leading Greaves to pour gasoline throughout the house and threaten to kill and burn the defendant. That's when Papaleo took the hammer and fatally struck Greaves 20 times.
Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub objected to Wolfe's theory several times, telling Judge Thane Covert during recess that he felt the public defender was, in a way, testifying for Papaleo without letting him cross-examine the defendant.
"Maybe there is no logical explanation," Wolfe told the jury.
Katie Mettler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow her on Twitter @kemettler.