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No bail for Army major accused of Clearwater murder

LARGO — Despite pleas from family members and decorated Army officers, a judge on Friday refused to set any bail for Roman Izzo, the major accused of shooting and stabbing his wife's ex-husband in Clearwater.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Christine Helinger said Izzo, an Army officer who had been stationed in Kansas, had "absolutely no ties whatsoever to Pinellas County" — a key point for someone expected to return for his own murder trial.

Izzo, 35, has led combat troops in Iraq and received two Bronze Stars. An Army lieutenant colonel testified Friday that Izzo would be allowed to return to a Kansas Army garrison with pay, if released on bail.

"I have no doubt that you've been a wonderful asset to the Army," said Helinger, who then noted that Izzo comes from a wealthy family and might be "a bigger flight risk because you have the resources and savvy with which to flee."

His attorney Stephen Romine said Izzo posed no flight risk, because he always cooperated with police and did not run away even when he knew for two years that Clearwater police were investigating him for murder.

Circumstances are different now, the judge said. "The state has … gotten an indictment from a grand jury, you've been arrested and you're facing the death penalty."

The November 2011 killing was brutal. Vincent Lee, 43, was found dead in his Clearwater apartment. He was shot five times, stabbed 10 times and his throat was slit.

From the beginning, a backstory suggested Izzo might have a motive.

Izzo was married to Lee's ex-wife Jodi. She and Izzo wanted to move the two children she shared with Lee out-of-state, but a judge would not allow it.

Izzo was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., and later at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Lee's relatives said they long suspected Izzo as the killer because of the ongoing custody dispute, and they got a chance to speak their mind at Friday's bail hearing.

"Sounds like Mr. Izzo has had a bright past," said Lee's mother, Sheila Mozingo. "My son also had an honorable past. But his future was cut short."

She said she is heartbroken and, "I lie in bed at night and think what he must have gone through.

"Only a coward and a psychopath could perform such an act."

Said Lee's cousin Robert Tuck: "We struggle to understand why someone who meant so much to so many people is not with us any longer."

Jodi Izzo did not speak in court, but she appeared along with others who supported her husband.

Izzo's father Dominic said he had no doubt his son would return for his trial if granted bail. Both men are West Point graduates.

Lt. Col. Karen Hubbard, testifying by phone, said Izzo had served under her command at Fort Leavenworth and "the chain of command here does want him to come back."

She said if released on bail, Izzo would be allowed to work on the base and be ordered not to leave it. He would not be physically restrained from doing so, she said. He is not being paid by the Army while incarcerated in the Pinellas County Jail, but his salary would resume if released on bail, she said.

Some soldiers who served alongside Izzo — including in combat in Iraq — spoke highly of him Friday.

Romine extracted testimony on Friday showing that no physical evidence tying Izzo to the crime scene at the Eagle's Glen condominiums exists.

However, Helinger said she had read the Clearwater police affidavit summarizing the investigation and "circumstantially, it's certainly not a weak case for the state."

Among the things noted in the affidavit:

• Before the murder, Izzo asked a fellow officer to buy him a book called Practical Homicide Investigation — and later ended up purchasing it himself.

• He told a friend he would like to kill Lee and also texted him "concerning finding someone to do harm to, or beat Vincent Lee."

• The day before the murder, cellphone records indicate Izzo was driving about 25 miles south of his home near Columbus, Ga. Then his cellphone activity stopped. The next morning, his cellphone indicated he was 95 miles south of his Georgia home and travelling back north again, "consistent with his known route to Clearwater and with sufficient time to commit the homicide."

Later that day Izzo searched on his computer for news in Clearwater.

No bail for Army major accused of Clearwater murder 03/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 9:36pm]
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