NEW PORT RICHEY — John Ditullio admitted he hated black people and cops. He admitted he lived with a group of neo-Nazis, men he admired like they were his brothers, who believed in the supremacy of the white race. He admitted they abused prescription drugs and drank whiskey and kept illegal guns. He admitted harassing the neighbors next door with racial slurs.
But he denied killing anyone.
"I'm guilty of being an a------," he said Monday, "but not of murder."
Ditullio, 24, is accused in a 2006 double stabbing that injured a woman and left a teenager dead. He went to trial last year on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder, but the jury, leaning toward acquittal, ended up deadlocked.
He took the stand in his own defense then and again Monday, calmly answering questions, never losing his temper and revealing much about his mentality at the time.
Ditullio said he was working as a tattoo apprentice in New Port Richey when a friend introduced him to the American Nazi group living in a mobile home on Teak Street.
"He suggested there would be some tattoo work I could make some money on," he said.
But he quickly formed stronger ties.
"I was blown away, man. I get to this place. It's like a 19-year-old's dream. Everybody was drinking. There was guns everywhere. I was blown away by the theatrics," he said.
"You viewed this group as a family?" one of his attorneys, J. Jervis Wise, asked him.
"As a brotherhood, as a family, absolutely," Ditullio said.
He felt a particular bond with Brian Buckley, the group's president, who is now serving a prison sentence for burglary.
"I was just overwhelmed with finding a father figure in my life," Ditullio said.
He soon became a prospect, vying for full membership. That meant he had to follow orders, wear a uniform, perform manual labor and submit to hazing.
He also took part in harassing the neighbors next door: a woman named Patricia Wells, who lived there with her son, Brandon Wininger, who was gay. Kristofer King, a friend of Wininger, often stayed over.
Ditullio said he didn't harbor any particular malice toward gay people, but he admitted shouting slurs at Wininger.
On March 22, authorities say, Ditullio put on a gas mask and barged into Wells' house, stabbing her in the face and hands as she ran to a bedroom where King was using the computer. Then he turned on King, 17, who died of his stab wounds.
But Ditullio testified that he never left the neo-Nazi house that night after the group had forced a familiar hazing ritual on him: lacing his drink with Xanax, then taunting to him to stay awake.
He said he was starting to pass out on the couch when Shawn Plott, another group member, tossed the gas mask at him and told him to hang it up.
"He had the look on his face like when an animal sees a human for the first time," Ditullio said. "He was shaken."
Ditullio said Plott was wearing khaki pants and a white T-shirt — the same clothes Wells described her attacker as wearing. She also said the attacker had no tattoos on his arms, and Ditullio's lawyer had him show the jury the tattoos that cover both of his arms.
Ditullio was soon alone in the compound, thinking another hazing was unfolding. They called it "code red" and his challenge was to stay inside with guns, make sure they were loaded and guard the compound.
He had no idea, he said, what had happened next door.
In and out of sleep, he said the next thing he knew, there were deputies everywhere, surrounding the compound.
With the neo-Nazi group, he learned about events like Ruby Ridge and Waco, when government agents targeted separatist groups. He thought that's what was happening to him.
He took more Xanax and went to sleep. And sometime during the night he wrote a missive declaring he was ready to die for his race.
"I see that it's not okay for me to go over to their house and exterminate them, but it's okay for the pigs to come in here and shoot me," he wrote.
Ditullio, who said he didn't remember writing the note but acknowledged it was his, said he was referring only to the police — not the stabbing victims.
Prosecutors have called two DNA analysts who said they found blood on Ditullio's boot containing Wells' DNA.
Jury members, who were allowed to write down their own questions for Ditullio, zeroed in on that issue.
How could her blood have gotten on his boot? one of them asked.
Ditullio answered that when he was arrested the day after the stabbing, officers walked him through the crime scene.
"Blood was everywhere," he said.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.