NEW PORT RICHEY — The same night he shot and killed an 82-year-old World War II veteran during a robbery, authorities say, Francis Sicola broke into another house, looking for drugs and valuables. He left behind a black mask, later found to contain his DNA.
Sicola was charged with both 2008 crimes — the murder of Joseph Wido, and armed burglary of the other house. In April, he pleaded no contest to the burglary, against his attorney's advice and without a deal from prosecutors. The charge carried a potential life sentence.
On Friday, a judge allowed Sicola, 27, to withdraw that plea and set the case for trial later this month.
Prosecutors did not object. In addition to the mask, they say they have a videotaped confession in which Sicola admitted to the burglary.
In the same interview, Sicola denied killing Wido.
Authorities tell a different story. Wido and his wife were in bed in their Timber Oaks home early on Aug. 29, 2008, when a man appeared with a red bandanna over his face, investigators say. When Wido tried to stop the burglar, telling him "I can take you on," he was shot.
Wido's wife, Bobbe, was tied up and left on the floor next to her dying husband while the burglar ransacked the house. A neighbor rescued her the next morning after hearing her cries for help.
Months later, authorities arrested Sicola, who grew up in New Port Richey and was first arrested at age 11. The murder case, which also carries a possible life sentence, is pending.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.