NEW PORT RICHEY — Jerry Finley studied the blood stains in Ann Parlato's home and told jurors how she died.
First came at least three blows in the tiled foyer of Parlato's Port Richey home. One of her earrings flew off in the attack. Then the 94-year-old woman retreated into her carpeted living room, where she was hit one time upright, and at least six more times as she lay on the floor, Finley said.
"By looking at different locations, it enables us to put together certain things that have happened or did happen in that scene," said Finley, who has more than 40 years of experience analyzing blood patterns and reconstructing crime scenes.
Authorities say John Sexton, who did yard work for Parlato, murdered and mutilated her in 2010, turning her home into the most horrific crime scene that Pasco deputies had seen in years. They have not suggested what the motive might have been. But as Sexton's trial for first-degree murder began Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said jurors would have plenty of evidence to consider.
"This defendant consciously intended to kill," Halkitis said, "and did so." The state is seeking the death penalty if Sexton, 49, is convicted.
Halkitis described how neighbors saw Sexton in a window of Parlato's home on the night of Sept. 22, 2010. He explained how the next day, a friend found Parloto's face beaten so badly it was unrecognizable.
"You're going to hear a story that sounds like a Stephen King novel," he said.
He talked about how Parlato never smoked, but cigarette butts were found all around the home — even in the corner of a trash bag and the washing machine. And knives were found in different places, too, Halkitis said. One with some sort of sticky substance on it was found atop a piece of antique furniture.
Finley said the crime scene showed there was a struggle and then an attempt to clean up. Photos showed a toppled chair and pine cones that spilled from a fallen basket. There was blood in the bathroom and on the doors of the washer and dryer.
Sexton's boots also had impact stains from Parlato's blood, Finley said.
Defense attorney Stephen Fisher asked Finley how he knew the stains didn't happen earlier in the day. Finley said the stains from accidentally cutting yourself are discernibly different from impact stains in a violent attack.
The neighbors, Devilyn Saunders and David Carlin, testified that they saw Sexton in the window of Parlato's home on the night of the killing. Saunders said she was asleep and heard a thud so loud it woke her up and alarmed her dogs. They went outside but didn't call deputies because Parlato was a night owl.
But Carlin jotted down the license plate of Sexton's truck, which was parked outside.
Dustin Anderson, another defense attorney, questioned whether the evidence would prove his client was responsible, beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Look for contradictions in the evidence," he told jurors. "At the end of this case, I'm going to ask that you find a verdict of not guilty."