Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Prosecutor suggests 94-year-old Pasco woman was beaten to death with vase

NEW PORT RICHEY — Scott Andringa posed a hypothetical. The assistant state attorney was interviewing medical examiner Dr. Jonathan Thogmartin about the slaying of 94-year-old Ann Parlato. Thogmartin examined Parlato's body at the scene and later performed her autopsy.

"Let's assume someone knocks on the door," Andringa said in court Thursday, "and Mrs. Parlato opens the door into the foyer area of her house."

Then Andringa painted the scene: Assume there's a white vase there, and the assailant uses it to strike Parlato three times in the foyer. Assume Parlato falls backward toward a chair in the living room, where she's struck another seven times with this white ceramic vase. Assume her blood stains the attacker's clothes. Assume the attacker rapes Parlato. Assume that after Parlato's death, the attacker placed the vase in her body, poured bleach on her, burned part of her.

"Is that fact pattern true or consistent with what happened?" Andringa asked.

"As long as the ceramic vase is harder than the bones in her face," Thogmartin said, "sure, absolutely."

Thogmartin was the first witness called by the state on Thursday, the third day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial of John Sexton, an acquaintance who did yard work for Parlato. She was murdered and mutilated in September 2010 in her Port Richey home. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if Sexton, 49, is convicted.

Thogmartin testified that Parlato died from blunt trauma. Her face was crushed. Her upper spine was dislocated from the way her head twisted from repeated blows. She had three or four rib fractures. There was a defensive injury to her middle finger. She likely died quickly. "The pain would've been horrible," Thogmartin said.

Her injuries also indicated that Parlato was sexually assaulted before her death, and stabbed and set on fire after she died.

Earlier this week, a DNA and crime scene analyst testified that Parlato's blood was found on Sexton's T-shirt, khaki shorts and boots. She also analyzed DNA samples taken from Sexton's hands, cuticles and fingernails, and found traces of Parlato's DNA.

Jurors heard more DNA testimony on Thursday from Sean Michael, who does crime laboratory analysis with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He tested a cigarette butt found in a trash can in Parlato's home and said the DNA matched that of Sexton.

Another crime scene analyst laid out prints of Sexton's shoes against impressions of bloody footprints found on the linoleum floor in the house, and found they "share the same class characteristics."

The defense called four witnesses on Thursday afternoon, including a detective who interviewed a neighbor who saw a man in Parlato's home on the night of the murder. The detective testified that the neighbor did not pick Sexton out of a photo lineup.

Sexton's wife, Catherine, also took the stand again. She testified that a computer that was confiscated from her home with a story about the murder was of her doing.

During cross-examination, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis asked her about the relationship she still had with her husband. He asked if they were still close, and if she had told him she loved him as she left court the other day.

"Yes," she said. "I believe in his innocence."

"No matter what John Sexton did you'd still be in love with him," Halkitis said.

She paused.

"No," she said. "I don't think so."

Jurors will hear closing arguments and begin their deliberations today.

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