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Pinellas records paint fuzzy picture of accused killer's rampage

Anthony Giancola, a former middle school principal, is accused of beating the owners of Kenvin’s Motel in Lealman in June 2012. Both survived.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Anthony Giancola, a former middle school principal, is accused of beating the owners of Kenvin’s Motel in Lealman in June 2012. Both survived.

The detective had just read the Miranda rights when Anthony Giancola interrupted.

"I do need to see a nurse," he said.

It was 4:40 on the afternoon of June 22. Two hours earlier, a Pinellas County sheriff's canine unit had found Giancola laying in the brush off a road in St. Petersburg. A deputy had to shock him twice with a Taser before he was dragged out and handcuffed.

The rotund, gray-haired man of 5-feet-7 and nearly 300 pounds, now 46, was accused of a violent rampage in which he had used a car, a knife and a hammer to maim six people and kill two others.

So as Detective Ed Judy faced him in that interview room last summer, the investigator badly wanted answers. The transcript of their conversation was part of 543 pages of court documents released to the Tampa Bay Times. Officials — citing state laws that protect information "revealing the substance of a confession" — redacted much of the text, largely concealing answers to the day's most confounding question: Why?

Still, a few clues were left uncensored.

When deputies captured Giancola, blood streaked the wrinkles of his face and stained the dusky eyebrows above his vacant blue eyes.

But most of that blood didn't appear to be his own, so his request for a nurse was puzzling.

"What's the matter?" Judy said. "Are you having a medical condition?"

"Yes," Giancola said.

"What is it? What — what's wrong?"

"I was raped last night."

• • •

Thirty years ago, what Anthony Giancola is now accused of doing would have been hard to foresee.

Giancola, an athletic and popular teenager, was crowned "Mr. BCHS" at Boca Ciega High School. He was elected student government president twice.

He began teaching Tampa middle-schoolers in 1991 and received glowing reviews.

Even then, amid his public stability, Giancola had a side he hid from most people.

"He told me one time he was addicted to two things," said an old colleague, Terry Crews. "Food and sex."

The two taught together in the 1990s. Crews told the Times that Giancola threw elaborate parties at which he paid for strippers whose names he always knew. Giancola often paid for sex, Crews said, but even the prostitutes were charmed. "They truly loved him."

In 2006, as his personal life collapsed, Giancola became principal at Van Buren Middle School. His weight was ballooning and he was going through a divorce when he first tried crack.

He began smoking it every day.

In February 2007, Giancola bought $20 of the drug from an undercover police officer during the school day and in his office.

Soon after his arrest, he vowed to never repeat his mistakes.

• • •

Hailey McManus told investigators she met Giancola around 2009 while he worked at the SPCA as part of his community service. People there adored him. The two began to date.

He even started working on a master's degree in counseling at the University of South Florida. But his demons wouldn't relent.

He lost his job at the SPCA, McManus said, because he got into more trouble, possibly a reference to his 2010 arrest in St. Petersburg for loitering.

Giancola entered rehab at the Salvation Army. He excelled there, eventually earning a job as a residential manager.

His mother, Cathy Giancola, told detectives that about two weeks before the June attacks, he got caught drinking and lost his position, and residence, at the Salvation Army. He moved into her mobile home and took a job at a pizzeria. He hated it.

"I know what's the matter with him," Cathy Giancola said. "He's thinking that he's living with mom and mom's paying the bills and that's eating him."

On June 21, Giancola and McManus spoke on the phone at 9:02 p.m. He'd been sick. She told him to come over.

"I could tell he was in a very depressed state," she said. "There was a weird air about him."

McManus arrived at his mother's mobile home around 10 the next morning. His maroon Ford Five Hundred Limited was gone.

"Please," his mother said to her, "tell me he's with you."

• • •

A light tap sounded on the door of Room 2 at Kenvin's Motel in Lealman. It was near midnight June 21. Leah Irons, a prostitute, was inside with her 3-year-old son.

She found Giancola at the door, looking stoned and gripping a wad of cash. He had withdrawn $300 from his mother's bank account.

Giancola, Irons would tell authorities, asked if she knew where he could find a good time.

If he wanted sex, the 21-year-old told him, he should go to Room 5 and ask for "Angel."

That woman soon called Irons to ask if she had any crack.

The next day, authorities say, Giancola returned to the motel and bludgeoned its owners with a hammer. Both survived.

Catherine Neal, 32, another prostitute working at Kenvin's that night, told authorities a month later that she knew what prompted the attack.

Giancola had given her money to buy crack, but she never returned with the drugs. She believed he wanted revenge.

• • •

It began on 35th Way N, then a group home for the hearing impaired. Several neighbors said it was a drug house.

Around 10:30 a.m., authorities said, Giancola stabbed four people there, killing two. Investigators found a bloody butcher knife with an 8-inch blade outside.

He arrived at the motel an hour later and, minutes after that attack, pulled into the front yard of a rundown white house on 58th Avenue N, another place known for troubles with the law.

Giancola, yelling through his car window, told a half-dozen people sitting outside that he had $300 and was looking for a woman to party with him.

When they told him there were no women to be had, authorities said he circled the block, came back and crashed his car into the stoop, hitting a man and three women.

He headed west.

A boy, 13, was pedaling his bicycle home when Giancola's car veered off the road and smashed into him. The teenager was briefly trapped beneath the bumper before escaping.

McManus and Giancola's mother picked him up soon after at the nearby Egg Platter restaurant.

"You're going to be proud of me," he told his mom, "because I just killed 10 drug dealers."

Most of what he told them — other than bizarre references to Jesus — was redacted from reports.

At the mobile home, McManus called 911. Giancola paid no attention. He dumped his mother's laundry money on a table, took a handful and walked out.

He needed a beer.

• • •

In the interview room, the detective sounded skeptical.

"Okay. You were raped?" Judy asked. "Do you know where?"

"I was trying to buy crack."

Giancola explained that, somewhere, he was in a room waiting to get drugs when a man pinned him down.

"I don't know. I was face down, and I know it hurt," he said. "That's all I know. It hurt."

Giancola couldn't say who did it or what the man looked like. He asked again for a nurse, and then to go to sleep, before he finally asked to stop talking.

Prosecutor Tom Koskinas, who is seeking the death penalty, said detectives found no evidence to support Giancola's allegation.

Maybe, Koskinas theorized, Giancola was in a drug-induced delirium — or perhaps he was just a killer in need of an excuse.

News researcher Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report.

Pinellas records paint fuzzy picture of accused killer's rampage 06/02/13 [Last modified: Sunday, June 2, 2013 11:22pm]
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