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Man's bragging leads to murder conviction

After Bryan Costa told friends about "whacking" a man, the truth behind the death emerged.

Bryan A. Costa might have gotten away with murder, prosecutors say, except for one thing:

He couldn't keep his mouth shut.

In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Costa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Friday for the 1996 beating death of James Jay Kollister and was immediately sentenced to 15 years in prison by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Lauren C. Laughlin.

Costa, 35, of Pinellas Park originally faced a first-degree murder charge. But prosecutors said they lacked physical evidence linking him to the murder, so they said they felt the plea to a lesser charge appropriate.

Costa might have escaped punishment altogether, said Assistant State Attorney Lynn Flagler, except that he began to brag to friends and family about "whacking," or killing, Kollister, a Clearwater landscaper.

A number of people called police, including some of Costa's co-workers at a roofing company and his own brother.

Costa fled to Lodi, Calif., where he was arrested in late 1998.

Police then reinterviewed Costa's wife, who originally provided her husband with an alibi after the September 1996 murder. During a second interview, police said, she told them the truth:

She didn't know where her husband was the day of the murder.

Within days of the killing, Costa had come under suspicion because witnesses said Kollister was on his way to see Costa the day he died and Costa was the last person to see him alive.

Prosecutors say they suspect that the killing was drug related. They also say that Kollister, 30, was having an affair with Costa's wife.

Kollister was beaten to death with a baseball bat. Two days after he disappeared, his body was discovered next to Park Street south of 84th Lane near Seminole.

Kollister's motorcycle was found abandoned behind the Mustang Drive-In in the 7300 block of Park Boulevard.