Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Prison officials mum on why murderer was moved from troubled Largo work release center

LARGO — A convicted murderer was moved out of a Largo work release center a week ago, but the state Department of Corrections still has not explained why.

Andrew DeNapoli was transferred back to prison the same weekend that the Tampa Bay Times published an article about the number of violent criminals housed in Florida's work release centers. DeNapoli is one of 20 convicted murderers in state work release centers as of Jan. 31.

The state Department of Corrections moved DeNapoli out of the Largo Residential Re-entry Center, bringing relief to nearby residents who said they were told the center would house mostly nonviolent offenders.

But the move also raised questions. Considering all the murderers in work release centers, why was DeNapoli the only one sent back into prison? Are prison officials thinking of moving others? And when, exactly, was he moved?

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said DeNapoli was moved on Saturday at his request. However, a family member of DeNapoli's said he was sent to a Polk County prison on Friday.

The Department of Corrections did not respond to numerous requests by phone and email this week seeking the reason for DeNapoli's transfer.

Although work release centers often are described as serving mostly nonviolent offenders, the Times found that hundreds of work release inmates are serving time for robbery, assault, battery, kidnapping attempted murder and other violent offenses.

That revelation was particularly troubling to residents near the Largo work release center given recent events. Just this week, one former inmate admitted to escaping from the center last year and killing two men in St. Petersburg. In January, another was accused of raping a teenager as she waited for a bus.

DeNapoli had a virtually spotless record in prison. But his background alone caused concern; he was convicted of second-degree murder after shooting a man in the head during a drug deal in 1996.

The Times' article was published in Sunday's newspaper and appeared online Saturday afternoon.

Latvala, who has been meeting with concerned residents, said he called a prison officials on Saturday and told him: "I can't believe we've got a murderer in there" and "I don't want him in there."

Latvala said he was told DeNapoli was being moved back to prison that night.

But the inmate's father, Anthony DeNapoli, told the Times this week that his son was moved Friday night — before the article appeared online or in the newspaper but after prison officials were interviewed about the presence of murderers in work release centers.

Anthony DeNapoli said prison officials told his son they thought it would be best to move him back to prison because of the flurry of concern about the Largo center. His son called him last Friday night to ask him to come to the work release center on Saturday morning to pick up his civilian clothes.

Because of the move, he said, his son was not able to come to a family visit that had been scheduled for Saturday.

Latvala said it's immaterial to him whether DeNapoli was moved Friday or Saturday, he's just happy he was moved. He praised prison officials for being responsive to his concerns on that point.

For his part, Anthony DeNapoli said even he can understand why residents near the work release center were upset to discover inmates there had committed violent crimes. "They should have been told how it works right up front," he said.

But on the other hand, as a father, Anthony DeNapoli said he is proud of how his son has worked hard to make something positive out of his life, in spite of what happened in 1996.

He said his son even tried to find a silver lining in being sent back to prison, by telling him last Friday night: "I've got another bridge that I have to go over and show that I can do the right thing."

Andrew DeNapoli is scheduled to be released from prison in October.

As of Thursday, none of the other 19 murderers cited by the Times had been transferred out of work release centers. Two had been released from custody altogether because their sentences were up.

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