William Siskos found guilty of second-degree murder in Hernando Circuit Court

BROOKSVILLE — William James Siskos tried to convince a jury that he pulled the trigger to save his own life when he shot and killed his girlfriend's husband on a summer night two years ago.

He failed.

A six-member jury on Thursday found Siskos guilty of second-degree murder, deciding that the 42-year-old former corrections officer was not acting in self-defense when he shot Joey Kasbach in the late-night hours of July 9, 2010.

Siskos faces 25 years to life in prison. His sentencing is set for Aug. 2.

He showed little emotion during the three-day trial and remained stone-faced when the clerk read the verdict.

Prosecutors painted Siskos as a jealous boyfriend angered by his girlfriend Kim Kasbach's decision that night to hang out with friends and the husband she'd separated from months earlier. Though the two men had never met, prosecutors said, they were keenly aware of one another. Kim Kasbach was living with Siskos, but still friendly with her husband. The tension of the love triangle, assistant state attorney Sonny McCathran told jurors, culminated in the shooting.

On Wednesday, Siskos gave his account of what happened that night.

He said he was looking for his girlfriend at a neighbor's house on Ligonier Road in Spring Hill. Kim was there, and told a friend to tell Siskos she'd be home later. Siskos left, then returned a short time later and saw a friend, Bill Mullins, talking to a man sitting in a Lincoln Continental.

According to Siskos, the man saw him and got out of the car, reached for something under the front seat and charged, hitting him twice with his right hand. Then, Siskos said, the man started to raise what looked like a gun in his left hand. Siskos said he was dazed and feared for his life when he fired his .22-caliber Ruger, hitting Kasbach in the abdomen.

Siskos said he didn't realize the man was Joey Kasbach until Mullins, the sole eyewitness to the shooting, said, "You shot Joe."

Jurors evidently believed the testimony of Mullins, who told a very different story.

Mullins, a friend of both men, lived at the house on Ligonier. He testified that Siskos walked up to them, and Kasbach got out of the car. The two men exchanged words.

"You're f------ my wife, you're f------ my wife," Kasbach shouted.

When Kasbach stretched his arms out to the side and took a small step forward, Mullins testified, Siskos took the gun from his waistband and fired.

Kasbach never swung at Siskos, and didn't have a weapon, Mullins said.

Photographs taken of Siskos' face that night showed no obvious marks or bruises. Investigators at the scene didn't find a weapon other than his pistol.

Siskos' public defenders tried to convince jurors that he was telling the truth. The father of two teenagers was a victim, they argued, a vulnerable man who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from an injury he sustained while working in a state prison.

Lead public defender Barbara-Jo Bell said that Mullins and others who testified against Siskos had motives to lie because they wanted the Kasbachs to get back together. Bell also tried to show that one or more of the people at the house that night could have removed a weapon from the scene.

After nearly two hours of deliberations Wednesday evening, jurors asked to review Mullins' testimony and returned Thursday morning to listen to the recording. After another 90 minutes or so of deliberation, they reached a verdict.

As the verdict was read, two sisters of Siskos sat in the courtroom, one behind Siskos, another behind prosecutors.

When the word "guilty" rang out, Linda Siskos began to weep. She had testified that her brother tried to avoid a confrontation with Kasbach, who would often pick up Kim at William Siskos' house to take her to work.

Linda Siskos is convinced that Mullins lied because of his own role that night, egging on a fight.

"He's here because of his guilt," she said through tears. "He instigated the whole thing. It's just not fair."

The verdict made Karen Braden smile. Braden drove from Georgia to see her brother's killer stand trial.

Joey Kasbach, a former ironworker who had served prison time for a bank robbery in the early 1990s, had his life back on track, Braden said. He loved Kim and wanted her back, but he would not have jeopardized his freedom by starting a fight or brandishing a weapon.

After Kasbach's death, his family sprinkled some of his ashes in a creek in rural New Jersey, at his late mother's wishes. The rest are an in urn on Braden's mantle.

Braden said she could feel her mother and brother in the courtroom this week.

"We know they were there watching us," she said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

William Siskos found guilty of second-degree murder in Hernando Circuit Court 06/14/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012 5:36pm]

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