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DNA leads to arrest in Pasco home-invasion slaying

On Monday, Pasco County Sheriff Bob White discusses the arrest of Francis Sicola in the death Joseph Wido, 82.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

On Monday, Pasco County Sheriff Bob White discusses the arrest of Francis Sicola in the death Joseph Wido, 82.

PORT RICHEY — From the beginning, authorities believed Joseph Wido was killed by a stranger who slipped into his house early Aug. 28 after finding an unlocked sliding glass door.

Another random tidbit — a black motorcyclist's mask found at the site of an attempted break-in nearby — contained enough DNA evidence to give detectives a suspect's name so they could begin digging.

On Friday — what would have been Wido's 83rd birthday — they arrested Francis Sicola, a 26-year-old felon whose first arrest came at age 11. He was tracked down in Yadkinville, N.C., where he is being held on a first-degree murder charge until authorities bring him to Florida.

Pasco Sheriff Bob White said Monday that Sicola tried to break into a house in northwest Pasco late on Aug. 27. He was scared off by the people inside and in his escape left the black mask behind.

Sicola then made his way to an adjacent subdivision and tried the doors on at least four houses, White said, until he got to the Widos'.

Wido and his wife, Roberta, who goes by Bobbe, married for 59 years, lived in Timber Oaks, one of Pasco's many retirement communities with a golf course, clubhouse and general feeling of security.

They were in bed but still awake after 2 a.m. when a man appeared in the doorway wearing a red bandana over his face. He told them to get up.

Joe Wido, who towered over the intruder, had another idea. He had fought in World War II and earned a Bronze Star.

"I can take you on," Mrs. Wido, 79, recalled her husband saying. Then, a gunshot, and Wido was felled by a bullet to the chest.

The intruder tied up Mrs. Wido with tape and spent 30 minutes rummaging through the house, taking jewelry and about $500 cash.

White said he was really after prescription drugs.

Then he left, and Mrs. Wido lay on the floor, beside her dead husband, until late the next morning when she heard a neighbor outside and cried out for help.

"It's definitely a relief," Mrs. Wido said Monday of Sicola's arrest. "I hope they hang him by his fingernails."

• • •

In 1998, when Sicola was 15 and working on at least his sixth arrest, the courts had a psychological evaluation done on him.

He began smoking cigarettes at age 10, according to court records, using pot at 11 and drinking at 12.

He was hospitalized once for trying to huff gasoline in his mother's garage.

He had a younger brother on community control and an older brother in prison.

His criminal charges, records show, included auto burglary, grand larceny, dealing in stolen property and grand theft.

A juvenile probation officer who interviewed him came to a portentous conclusion.

"Unless we can get this youth's complete attention, he will probably spend a significant part of his adult life in prison," the officer wrote.

Sicola, after violating his probation and picking up more theft charges, served two prison stints.

• • •

Investigators do not have physical evidence linking him to Wido's murder. But once they had the DNA match from the mask and began asking about him, they found witnesses who said Sicola admitted the shooting, the Sheriff's Office said.

Pasco detectives and Yadkin County deputies found him Friday evening in Yadkinville. It's not clear why he was in the small burg near Winston-Salem, N.C. His family could not be reached Monday.

Mrs. Wido saw his mugshot on TV Monday, but it didn't stir her memory.

"When I saw the guy," she said, "he had a mask on."

Times staff writer Bill Stevens contributed to this report. Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

More on this case

Read previous coverage of the death of Joe Wido and hear audio of Bobbe Wido at links.tampabay.com

DNA leads to arrest in Pasco home-invasion slaying 01/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 11:26pm]
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