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Relative tells how lonely Pasco man's Internet romance now part of nightmares in hospital

NEW PORT RICHEY — Joseph Bruno said he was fine, but his stepfather could tell he was lonely. Bruno, 44, lost so much these past few years. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had to give up his handyman business — roofing, carpeting, plumbing — because he couldn't physically do it anymore. He went on disability, relatives said, and moved from Virginia to Florida because he wanted a nice, quiet place near the ocean to live a peaceful life.

He hadn't been in a relationship for two years, his family said, and wanted a companion. But even knowing this, how lonesome he was, they were shocked last week when he announced a woman he'd met recently on the Internet was moving in with him. Her teenage son was coming too, Bruno said.

His stepfather, Eugene DeAngelis, urged Bruno to reconsider.

"To take them into your home without knowing anything is a bad thing," DeAngelis, who lives in New York, told Bruno.

But Bruno told him it was fine.

"Everything is cool," Bruno told his stepfather.

He said Bobbie Jo Curtis, 40, and her son, Bryan Curtis, 16, were being evicted from where they lived and had no place to go. Bruno assured his stepfather that moving into his Moon Lake Estates house on Midvale Avenue was just a "temporary" thing.

DeAngelis fretted. He had such a bad feeling about it.

And then he got a nightmarish call this weekend: The Curtises and a friend, Vanessa Musson, 26, tied Bruno to a chair, beat him with a baseball bat and robbed him at gunpoint, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. Deputies said a neighbor, David Ragon, 69, saw them unloading Bruno's belongings and asked what was going on. Ragon was also attacked with the bat and a hammer, breaking his jaw, giving him a concussion.

"God, I just wish he would have listened to me," DeAngelis said Monday.

Bobbie Jo Curtis and her son were arrested this weekend. Both are charged with attempted murder, unlawful imprisonment, grand theft auto and aggravated battery.

Bruno is still in the hospital and has a breathing tube, DeAngelis said. His condition was very critical this weekend, but it he is now stable, although Bruno is now fighting a "severe case of pneumonia," DeAngelis said.

Ragon is home but not speaking to reporters.

Bobbie Jo Curtis has a long criminal history, with 14 arrests since 2001 on charges such as aggravated assault, burglary and selling prescription drugs. Musson, who is still at large, spent nearly a year in prison on drug crimes, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

DeAngelis said his stepson is traumatized and keeps waking up in his hospital bed, thinking he's still being attacked.

"They are going to get what they deserve," DeAngelis said of those who beat his stepson. "I'm sure of that."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

>>fast facts

Suspect in attack remains at large

The Sheriff's Office urges anyone with information about Vanessa Musson to not approach her and to call (727) 844-7711. She might have stolen firearms from Joseph Bruno and might be driving his 2000 white Econoline van with a roof and ladder rack, tag number 366TQH. She also goes by "Shorty" and has many tattoos, including "Nessa."

Relative tells how lonely Pasco man's Internet romance now part of nightmares in hospital 09/17/12 [Last modified: Monday, September 17, 2012 9:26pm]
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