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With computers, cellphones as evidence, Clearwater detectives build murder case

CLEARWATER — In the case against the Army major accused of killing his wife's former husband, the court records don't mention classic forms of evidence such as fingerprints, eyewitnesses or the murder weapon.

Instead, in a sign of how technology pervades all aspects of life, the case against 35-year-old Roman Izzo may come down to his personal electronics: the searches he made on computers and records of his cellphone use.

Izzo also had a potential motive — his wife was in a custody dispute with the victim at the time he was killed in November 2011. And the major also reportedly told a friend he would "like to kill" the victim.

All these points are outlined in an indictment and affidavit obtained Thursday by the Tampa Bay Times. The documents, for the first time, describe the brutality of the attack. Vince Lee, 43, was shot five times, stabbed 10 times and his throat was slit.

Izzo, arrested last week and currently in a Kansas jail, is waiting to be extradited to Florida to face charges that he murdered Lee.

The court records paint a picture of a case that is largely circumstantial, but also filled with potentially damaging details. The affidavit refers to "a purchase of .45 caliber ammunition" — the same kind used in the shooting.

Lee and his then-wife Jodi had two children. They divorced. Jodi and her new husband Roman Izzo wanted to move the children out of state, but a judge would not allow it. Izzo was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., and later at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Then on Nov. 16, 2011, Lee's body was discovered in the Eagle's Glenn condo complex. Whoever broke into the condo did so by smashing through a sliding glass door, apparently using a propane tank from an outdoor grill.

Lee's relatives have long suspected Izzo as the killer because of the ongoing custody dispute.

Clearwater detectives Joseph Ruhlin and William Smith eventually obtained access to Izzo's home computer and his work computer on the Army base, as well as other evidence, and according to records they discovered:

• Before the murder, Izzo asked a fellow officer to buy him a book called Practical Homicide Investigation — and later ended up buying it himself.

• He told a friend he would like to kill Lee and also texted him "concerning finding someone to do harm to, or beat Vincent Lee."

• A month or so before the killing, Izzo did computer searches about average 911 response times, and how fire departments breach sliding glass doors (similar to the way someone broke into Lee's Clearwater condo).

• He also did online research on knives, firearms, silencers and .45-caliber ammunition.

• On Nov. 15, 2011, the day before Lee's murder, cellphone records indicate Izzo was driving about 25 miles south of his home near Columbus, Georgia. Then his cellphone activity stopped. The next morning, his cellphone indicated he was 95 miles south of his Georgia home and travelling back north again, "consistent with his known route to Clearwater and with sufficient time to commit the homicide."

And later that day, back at work, Izzo did more searches on his computer. This time he was looking for news in the Clearwater area.

Staff writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.

With computers, cellphones as evidence, Clearwater detectives build murder case 11/14/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 15, 2013 12:20am]
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