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At child abuse trial, neighbor testifies bruised boy showed up seeking protection

BROOKSVILLE — The boy showed up at the front door of her home and wanted to talk inside, which struck Landelle Edgar as odd.

In five years as the boy's neighbor, Edgar had rarely seen or even spoken with the teen. The boy and his family mostly stayed to themselves in their home on Whitmarsh Street in Spring Hill.

But this time, the boy seemed nervous and shaken. He was hungry. He was covered with bruises. And he came in search of help.

"He lifted his shirt and then told me about his life," Edgar said Wednesday. "And then he said, 'I need protection.' "

Edgar's testimony led off the third day in the trial of Tai-Ling Gigliotti, the boy's onetime caregiver. Prosecutors say Gigliotti beat the teen and periodically imprisoned him in a bathroom for months before he escaped in early February 2009.

Gigliotti, 51, faces two counts of aggravated child abuse. If convicted of both charges, she could be sentenced to 60 years in prison.

On Wednesday, prosecutors called nine witnesses to the stand to build their case against Gigliotti. Most were law enforcement officials and medical professionals who tended to the boy, then 16, in the hours after he broke free from the barricaded bathroom of his family's home.

But the first witness of the day was Edgar, a 76-year-old woman who lived across the street from the boy and Gigliotti.

Edgar testified that the teen showed her bruises and scars from beatings he allegedly suffered at the hands of Gigliotti. After she asked him to sit silently for a few minutes, she asked him to talk.

Then he asked Edgar to help him but was reluctant to have her call the authorities. But before she contacted a friend at a local youth shelter, Edgar said she asked the boy if she really wanted her to make the call.

"Some things didn't sound logical," she said. Edgar told him, "You're going to open a door now where your life is going to change."

He told her to make the call, and she did.

Edgar also offered the boy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana, cookies and a glass of milk. She said the boy ate "ravenously."

"He ate it with gusto," she said. "He ate everything I offered him but didn't ask for anymore."

Other witnesses testified that the boy had injuries but nothing requiring a trip to the hospital. Dr. Richard Barnes of Oak Hill Hospital initially concluded the teen had a fracture in his right forearm, but a radiologist later determined that was incorrect.

John Fiener, one of Gigliotti's attorneys, later questioned why local law enforcement officers inspected Gigliotti's home only using the boy's version of events as their guide.

"You didn't look for things inconsistent with what he said, did you?" Fiener asked.

"No," said Sgt. Curtis Turney of the Hernando County Sheriff Office.

Jurors also were shown a roughly 15-minute video tour of Gigliotti's home and a number of pictures of the boy's injuries.

Gigliotti is the widow of Anthony Gigliotti, one of the most accomplished classical clarinet players of the 20th century, who died at 79 in 2001 in a Camden, N.J., hospital.

Gigliotti and the boy moved from the Philadelphia area to the house on Whitmarsh Street in Spring Hill in 2004. According to the teen, the abuse quickly followed.

Her boyfriend, Anton Angelo, reached a plea deal with prosecutors last month. In exchange for his testimony against Gigliotti, Angelo will spend no time in jail but will serve five years of probation.

Angelo is expected to take the witness stand today.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/jandersontimes.

At child abuse trial, neighbor testifies bruised boy showed up seeking protection 05/05/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010 12:41am]

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