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Trial under way in Dunedin murder of 'Sunshine Lady'

LARGO — Mary T. Dittus would only let her old friend Anthony Dadabo move to Florida with her on two conditions:

He had to stay away from drugs.

He had to stay away from Joseph Difiore.

Lori Larsen testified about her mother's demands in court on Wednesday. Sitting across from her at the defense table: Joseph Difiore, who is on trial this week for her mother's murder.

The 60-year-old woman was bludgeoned and stabbed to death in her Dunedin mobile home in 2006. It is in her memory that family and friends of the woman known as the "Sunshine Lady" have gathered this week at the Pinellas Criminal Courts Complex.

While Difiore, 37, is on trial this week, next week, Anthony Dadabo, 40, is set to go on trial for the same charge.

Dadabo was a longtime friend of the victim's, her daughter testified, who Dittus helped move from their native New York just months before her August 2006 murder.

Dittus paid cash for Dadabo's trailer. They often hung out and played cards together, the daughter said, even though she and her mother had good reason to fear his old habits and old associations.

"My concern was that he would get back into drugs," the daughter testified, adding that Dadabo had an addiction.

Dadabo broke his promise when he brought Difiore down to Florida, prosecutors said, and plotted his friend's murder. The jury was never told why the victim was so concerned about Difiore, but both men have criminal records in New York.

According to the prosecution, Dadabo was driving Dittus back from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa when he called ahead to Difiore. Their alleged plan: Difiore would wait in her office closet, then surprise her with a hammer.

Dittus was beaten unconscious, the deputy chief medical examiner testified Wednesday, then stabbed as she lay helpless on the floor. Dadabo is accused of wielding the two knives used in the attack.

"What is the significance of the (stab) wounds being clustered around the chest?" asked Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin.

"Most likely in that scenario, the decedent is not moving," said Dr. Noel Palma. "She is not defending herself."

The men stole $4,000 from their victim, the jury was told.

Defense attorney Daniel Hernandez has yet to explain the defense's theory to the jury. Nor has a decision been made yet whether Difiore will testify on his own behalf, the lawyer said. But Hernandez did cross-examine the medical examiner on Wednesday.

"Is it correct that you are not able to enter an opinion about who caused the injures?" Hernandez asked. "And is it correct that you cannot determine if there were multiple perpetrators?"

Dr. Palma answered yes to both questions. The trial is expected to wrap up Friday.

Reach Jamal Thalji at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Trial under way in Dunedin murder of 'Sunshine Lady' 11/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 10:20pm]
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