PORT RICHEY — When police came to the Ficarra home on Green Street one evening in March, Michelle Ficarra answered the door crying and holding the side of her face.
She apologized for the officer having to respond. She said she didn't need any help. She wouldn't say what had happened, according to a report, only that she loved her husband and didn't want any trouble for him.
The officer noticed that her face was swelling and she was wincing in pain. Ficarra, however, wouldn't let the officer take photographs of her injuries.
Her husband of 25 years, Damian Ficarra, was arrested three days later and charged with domestic battery. He spent two hours in jail and was released on $250 bail.
This week, Port Richey police say, there was another fight. More blows to the head.
This time Michelle Ficarra, 53, died.
A police report says she suffered "blunt force trauma to the left side of her head."
After she died Tuesday, the report says, Damian Ficarra taped his wife's body to a dolly and moved her to the garage.
When her son tried to get in touch with his mother, Damian Ficarra told him she was sleeping, the report says. Her son persisted, and two days later found his mother's body.
Damian Ficarra, 55, is being held without bail on a charge of second-degree murder.
He was charged in 2008 with domestic battery against his wife. In that case, too, the couple had been arguing and Ficarra struck his wife in the head, a report says.
Not long after his arrest, Michelle Ficarra petitioned the court to lift the "no contact" order prohibiting her husband from seeing her.
"I do not feel threatened or in danger in any way," she wrote to a judge.
"It was an isolated incident."
Penny Morrill, CEO of Sunrise of Pasco County Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center, said Michelle Ficarra's narrative is all too common among domestic violence victims.
"They are fearful of him, and if they press charges and move forward with a domestic violence injunction, when he gets out of jail then she's in danger again and he's going to be really angry at that point," Morrill said.
"It's a method of survival for the victim to deny that there's a problem."
Back in March, Michelle Ficarra told police the couple were going through financial troubles and were about to lose their home and business. Records showed Damian Ficarra owned a business called American Gutter.
Officers searched for Damian Ficarra that night but didn't find him. He returned later on, the report says, prompting a 911 call from Michelle Ficarra, who said her husband had spoken to her through a bedroom window. He promised to come back and kill her.
Then she told the officer again that her husband hadn't harmed her.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.