BROOKSVILLE — A longtime friend of Tai-Ling Gigliotti testified Friday that Gigliotti always was loving and attentive to the young boy who later accused her of imprisoning him in a bathroom and repeatedly beating him.
Lin Rainey of Jacksonville said she never saw any indications the boy was abused and that over time Gigliotti began to worry about the teen's increasingly troublesome behavior.
"To watch her hurt was about all I could take," Rainey said. "When I heard the things that were being said, my heart was broken."
Rainey and several other witnesses testified on behalf of Gigliotti on Friday, the fifth day of her trial.
Gigliotti, the boy's one-time caregiver and widow of famed clarinetist Anthony Gigliotti, faces two counts of aggravated child abuse based on accusations that she beat the teen and periodically imprisoned him in a bathroom for months before he escaped in early February 2009.
If convicted of both abuse charges, the 51-year-old Gigliotti could be sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Friday's day of testimony started with a couple of contractors, Michael Mauldin and Alex Silva, who performed work in previous years at Gigliotti's home on Whitmarsh Street in Spring Hill.
Both Mauldin and Silva testified that they saw no signs of abuse in the home.
"Have you ever seen any evidence that (the boy) was afraid of his mom?" asked John Feiner, one of Gigliotti's attorneys.
"No, sir," Mauldin said.
But it was Rainey and Sharyn Stone, an emergency veterinarian at Animal Emergency of Hernando, who delivered the strongest — and lengthiest — testimony of the morning.
Stone said that five days after Gigliotti and her fiance, Anton Angelo, were arrested Feb. 9, 2009, the boy called her at the office.
She said he told her that she should find a home for the pets at the family's home, that he was going to change his last name and that his new foster family loved him.
"He was very arrogant and very cocky," Stone said.
"He said he was going to put them away for a long time and wanted me to find a home for the animals."
Rainey described Gigliotti as a "dear friend" who was always generous to the boy, who is from Taiwan. Rainey said Gigliotti often brought him to classical music events and other formal gatherings.
"Here's a lady that brought the child over from not a very wonderful place to grow up," Rainey said, "and no one to love him as much as she did. I was very touched by that."
Gigliotti is expected to take the stand today. There also will likely be a second round of testimony from the boy and Angelo.
Angelo, 46, has already reached a plea deal with the state that will keep him out of prison.
Circuit Judge Jack Springstead said he expects to start jury deliberations Monday morning.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120. You can follow Joel at www.twitter.com/janderson times.