NEW PORT RICHEY — Bobbie Jo Curtis smoked some spice with her teenage son and told him to be a real man.
Let's rob this guy, she told Bryan Curtis, for trying to kick us out.
"This guy" was Joseph Bruno, a retired Moon Lake man with multiple sclerosis. He met Bobbie Jo Curtis on Singlesnet.com. She told Bruno she needed a place to stay, and he agreed to let them spend a few days at his three-bedroom house on Midvale Avenue.
On Sept. 14, 2012, he was regretting that decision, and according to his testimony, asked them to leave. Curtis turned to her son and came up with a quick plan.
"She told me I wasn't a (real) crook unless I did it," Bryan Curtis, now 17, said.
So he did. He pulled out a pocket knife and tied Bruno up, and beat him, he said in court. Bobbie Jo Curtis left and picked up a woman named Vanessa Musson, 27, to help with the removal of Bruno's stuff — multiple firearms, baseball cards and other household possessions.
When it was all over, Bruno and a friend who tried to help him lay in pools of blood and the three fled in Bruno's van with the rest of the haul.
Bryan Curtis and his mother both pleaded guilty to the charges — including aggravated battery, kidnapping, robbery and grand theft auto. If sentenced as an adult, Bryan Curtis faces life in prison . His mother does as well. Musson is on trial this week, and she faces the same.
On the day of the crime, Bruno went to call police when he felt like something violent was going to happen to him. His phone was disconnected — then the beating started. They tied him up with some rope from the garage, and beat him with a bat and a wooden stick, until he gave the combination for his safe. Bryan Curtis, who testified against Musson, said he held Bruno at gunpoint while the women loaded up the van. Bruno's friend, a neighbor named David Ragon, saw Bruno's van backed into the garage and feet moving back and forth underneath it. He went over to investigate. He walked in the garage and saw a bunch of guns in the back of the van.
"I said 'you people are robbing him. There's something funny going on here,' " Ragon said in court.
He asked Bryan Curtis to see Bruno. The teen told him Bruno was asleep and they were helping him to "get rid of some junk." Ragon didn't buy it.
He forced his way in and saw Bruno tied up and slumped over. The three attacked him next.
Bruno testified that he barely remembered the incident but remembers getting hit "over and over again." He had multiple stitches on his head and was unable to communicate with detectives in the hospital, except to squeeze a nurse's hand. Once for yes, and twice for no. He identified Musson with two squeezes after a detective showed him a picture of her.
The Curtises and Musson sold the guns and ditched the van after wiping it down with bleach, investigators say. The Curtises' got a taxi and some McDonald's and a room at the Riverside Inn, where detectives found them later that night. U.S. marshals picked up Musson about a week later in Tampa.
She declined to testify. The case is expected to go to a jury today.