NEW PORT RICHEY — Four months after a masked intruder shot and killed a World War II hero trying to defend his wife and home, detectives closed in on their suspect: Francis Sicola.
They already had his brother's damaging statements. Now they wanted to hear from Sicola's mother, Donna Clancy. She didn't know it, but they taped the Jan. 8, 2009, meeting at her home in the Regency Park subdivision.
Prosecutors played her comments back for a jury on Wednesday.
"He was working on my car and he said, 'I capped somebody's ass and I'm going back to North Carolina,' " Clancy said.
The next day, detectives flew to Yadkinville, N.C., and charged Sicola, now 28, with first-degree murder in the Aug. 28, 2008, death of Joe Wido, 82, a Bronze Star recipient for combat bravery against the Nazis.
In the time since her son's arrest, Clancy's memory has grown dim. She said in court Wednesday that's because she's bipolar, takes sleeping pills and that the detectives caught her off guard that morning. In a verbal duel with Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis, Clancy said this is what her son really said: "What do you think, I just capped somebody's ass?''
Clancy said her son, "Frankie,'' liked to talk tough. He had a "New York attitude,'' she said.
And after he started contacting her from the jail in North Carolina while awaiting extradition, she changed her tune, Halkitis said, and even filed a letter with the Public Defender's Office complaining of coercion.
In one letter that Sicola wrote and then instructed his mother to "burn it,'' he said authorities only had as evidence the statements she and his brother Christopher had made.
"What's done is done,'' he wrote, "now it's time to fix it.'' He didn't know the Yadkinville jail kept copies of inmate mail.
About the detectives, Sicola wrote, "They lie every day on the stand. It's part of their job.''
Over and over, Clancy said she could not remember details that she had offered in a previous sworn deposition, which Halkitis read aloud.
"No matter what he does or what he did,'' Halkitis told her, "you'll always love Frank Sicola, right?''
"Yes,'' she said.
A day earlier in court, Christopher Sicola, 33, testified he picked his brother up near the home in Timber Oaks where Wido was shot about 2 a.m. He said his brother confessed that he had just shot somebody. A few hours earlier, Francis Sicola had tried to break into a home about a mile north of Timber Oaks but was scared off by the owner.
When Halkitis asked Christopher if he knew Donna Clancy, he said, "Unfortunately, she's my mother.'' He said their relationship "turned sour after all this stuff happened,'' and that after his brother started writing them from jail, she started putting pressure on him.
"She wanted me to change my statement,'' Christopher said.
The prosecution rested its case late Wednesday, but not before Assistant State Attorney Eric Rosario used maps and complex testimony from an engineer who analyzed cell phone records to determine a pattern of calls on the night of the killing.
Youseff Muhomed concluded that a cell phone number assigned to Francis Sicola had either received or initiated calls in the Timber Oaks area, including one within 50 to 100 feet of the Wido home on Quimby Drive. He said another call was made at 2:43 a.m. at the county Health Department building on Little Road, which is near the murder scene. Christopher Sicola testified earlier that he picked his brother up about that time at the Health Department building.
The defense put up its own expert witness who said 2008 technology could not pinpoint the location of a cell phone to within 150 feet.
A state DNA expert testified about the lack of physical evidence in the Wido house, although it was DNA found in a discarded black ski mask that helped convict Sicola of the burglary attempt at the other home earlier that night. The jury won't hear about that conviction or the 15-year sentence Sicola received, or the details of his extensive criminal history that dates to age 15. Defense attorney Dean Livermore said he is considering whether to let Sicola testify when the trial resumes this morning.
Before the state rested, Halkitis put one last witness on the stand: Gina Dean, victim's advocate with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. She spent numerous hours with Bobbe Wido, who had been bound with duct tape while the intruder stole her jewelry and left her on the floor for 10 hours next to her dead husband.
Dean recalled a visit to the courthouse last year when Bobbe Wido ran into Donna Clancy on an elevator. "Your son killed my husband,'' she said.
To that, Dean testified, Clancy answered, "I know and I'm sorry for that.''
Mrs. Wido's health began to deteriorate after the killing. She died in September.
Staff writer Molly Moorhead contributed to this report. Bill Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (727) 869-6250.