NEW PORT RICHEY — When neo-Nazi John Ditullio went to trial last year in a 2006 double stabbing, prosecutors presented letters he wrote, DNA evidence and numerous witnesses they said proved he was the killer.
The trial ended with a hung jury that nearly acquitted him.
On Wednesday, as Ditullio's retrial opened nearly five years after the crime, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis promised a new jury a new piece of evidence: a broken piece of a knife.
He didn't outright say it was the murder weapon, which was never found. But he quoted from a poem Ditullio penned while in jail.
"The knife, the well, the things I hid well," Halkitis said Ditullio wrote.
The broken knife, Halkitis said, was discovered this year when another neo-Nazi told investigators that Ditullio had ditched it near a well at the end of Teak Street, not far from where the bloody rampage left a teenager dead.
Ditullio, 24, is charged with murdering 17-year-old Kristofer King and wounding Patricia Wells. Ditullio was a recruit in an American Nazi group living at a compound on Teak Street in New Port Richey. The group had been taunting and threatening Wells, who lived next door, for having a black friend and a gay son. King, who also was gay, was a friend of Wells' son, who was not home the night of the attack.
Halkitis said Ditullio finally acted on the threats on March 23, 2006, covering his face with a gas mask, breaking into Wells' home and attacking with a knife. Ditullio faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
In his opening argument, Halkitis read aloud to the jury more of Ditullio's letters.
One, a Christmas card he sent from jail to King's father, says: "Christmas is a time to think about and remember the ones we love. Hope your Christmas is full of memories of your dead gay son. Merry f------ Christmas."
A letter Ditullio wrote to his father says: "All I can say is, don't be mad. This is all my fault. These are all my actions. I'm sick of f----- other people's lives up for the things I've done. It's high time I stand up and face the music. No more hiding. I'm through running."
And a letter he wrote hours after the stabbing, while holed up inside the neo-Nazi compound with sheriff's SWAT members surrounding him, says: "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."
"They are so incriminating," Halkitis said of the letters, "that you will be able to forget about virtually all of the evidence in this case and find the defendant guilty based on his own words."
Bjorn Brunvand, Ditullio's attorney, seized on that argument, saying the evidence will point to another person as the real killer: Shawn Plott, who also was living with the neo-Nazi group.
"The evidence will … show that John Ditullio was a scapegoat of the American Nazis. The members of the American Nazis were protecting their own," Brunvand said. "The evidence will show that John Ditullio was not the perpetrator."
Wells, who took the stand Wednesday, said that within a week of moving into the mobile home on Teak Street in December 2005, the neo-Nazi group next door began harassing her.
They hurled hateful slurs at her, broke windows on her house and slashed her car tires, she said.
A few weeks before the attack, she said they chased her up her driveway as she rushed into her house. They broke the window in her door as she called 911 and her son grabbed a baseball bat.
Ditullio was there, she said, and she heard him yell, "I'm signing your death sentence. I'm gonna kill you."
After the stabbing, Wells spoke several times with investigators and said her attacker was wearing a white T-shirt and khaki pants and had blond hair. She once said the attacker's height was 5 feet 8; other times she said he was between 5 feet 10 and 6 feet.
In one taped interview inside her house, where blood spatter stained the walls, Wells glanced at her friend who is 6 feet 1 and said the stabber was "a lot shorter" than him.
Ditullio is 6 feet tall, and when he was arrested the morning after the attack, he was photographed wearing black pants and a red T-shirt.
The trial continues today and is expected to last into next week.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.