Advertisement
  1. Pinellas

Hulk Hogan's son. A tragic crash. Murder-for-hire. The latest on Tampa Bay's strangest saga.

In the late 2000s the Graziano family endured several tragedies when their lives intertwined with the family of wrestling celebrity Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, who were Tampa Bay’s biggest reality TV stars at the time. Clockwise from top left: The wrestler’s son, Nick Bollea crashed while speeding through downtown Clearwater in 2007, leaving Iraq war veteran and Marine John Graziano (top right, with mother Debra Graziano) with catastrophic injuries. Then in 2009, father Edward Graziano (bottom right) was arrested for hiring a fixer to arrange the death of his wife (it was actually an undercover deputy.) Hogan (bottom left) settled a lawsuit with the Graziano family, which received $1.5 million after legal fees to care for John Graziano, was left in a minimally conscious state and requires a lifetime of care. [Times files] The murder-for-hire plot was just one chapter from the Graziano family’s brush with fame and tragedy in the late 2000s. Their lives became intertwined with the family of wrestling celebrity Terry “Hulk Hogan,” Bollea at a time when he and his family starred in their own reality TV show.
Published Jul. 9

Debra Graziano answered her phone and heard a voice from the past.

It was her ex-husband, she told deputies. The man who went to prison for trying to arrange her murder a decade ago.

On the phone, Edward Graziano, 63, told his ex-wife he had some things he wanted to talk to her about, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Debra Graziano hung up.

"She is scared to death," said her attorney, George Tragos.

That April 22 phone call landed Edward Graziano back in jail, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He was arrested June 29 on a charge of violating his probation for allegedly contacting his ex-wife.

FROM 2012: Michael Graziano, younger brother of John Graziano, dies of injuries from crash

The murder-for-hire plot was just one chapter from the Graziano family's brush with tragedy and infamy in the late 2000s. Their lives became intertwined with the family of wrestling celebrity Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea at a time when they were Tampa Bay's biggest reality TV stars.

The fourth season of Hogan Knows Best had finished taping in 2007 when son John Graziano was critically injured while riding in a sports car driven by the wrestler's then 17-year-old son, Nick Bollea. The yellow Toyota Supra was seen racing through downtown Clearwater before it jumped a curb and slammed into a palm tree.

John Graziano, then a 22-year-old Iraq War veteran, was not wearing his seat belt and suffered catastrophic injuries. He was left in a minimally conscious state and spent two years undergoing treatment at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa before being released to his family in 2009.

That was also the year Edward Graziano tried to orchestrate his estranged wife's death. He gave a fixer $1,100 in cash, a $1,000 personal check and a Westshore Pizza gift card with $13.06 left on it to arrange for the murder of his wife — and make it look like a car accident.

The fixer turned out to be an undercover deputy. Debra Graziano had accused her estranged husband of brutality and domestic violence years before his 2009 arrest, records show.

"I am not guilty of what they're accusing me of, and I'm confident that I'll be fully acquitted," Edward Graziano told the then-St. Petersburg Times in a jailhouse interview.

He later pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation.

Debra Graziano settled a civil lawsuit against the Bolleas in 2010, receiving $1.5 million after legal fees to help her care for her son.

While the father was in prison, the Graziano family lost a son. Michael Graziano, 23, was killed in 2012 when the impaired driver he was riding with crashed into the back of a dump truck on Ulmerton Road, authorities said.

Debra Graziano's lawyer said the April 22 phone call wasn't the only time Edward Graziano violated the judge's no-contact order since he got out of prison in 2017.

He sometimes tried to visit their son during therapy appointments without prior approval, Tragos said, even though he wasn't supposed to be there when his ex-wife was.

"He just showed up and didn't leave," the attorney said.

Edward Graziano is being held without bail in the Pinellas County jail.

Contact Kavitha Surana at Ksurana@tampabay.com or (737) 893-9149. Follow @ksurana6.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Authorities say school guardian Erick Russell, 37, pawned his sheriff's-issued firearm because he needed gas money. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    He also pawned magazines and body armor because he needed gas money, detectives said. He faces charges of false verification.
  2. Dr. Paul McRae was the first black chief of staff at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Dr. McRae died on September 13, 2019. He was photographed here in the Tampa Bay Times photo studio for the 2008 Dr. Carter G Woodson Museum's "Legends Honorees" gala. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Times
    ‘His extraordinary example paved the way for so many others.’
  3. Neeld-Gordon Garden Center, open at this location since 1925, is closing on Sept. 28. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The development of Pinellas County and the arrival of the big box stores helped hasten the store’s demise.
  4. Falo Kane, 32, of Clearwater, now faces four counts of sexual battery of a physically helpless person and a violation of probation charge, according to police. [CLEARWATER POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Clearwater Police Department
    Falo Kane now faces a total of seven counts of sexual battery of a physically helpless person.
  5. Tampa has a pilot program underway to test scooters. Clearwater could soon have one of its own. But if it's limited to downtown, who will use it? CHRIS URSO  |   Times
    The city’s plan is coming into focus, but there will be limitations.
  6. A car hangs from a crane after being removed for the water along the Howard Frankland Bridge Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Florida Highway Patrol
    The driver emerged okay but faces charges of driving with a suspended license.
  7. Marquis Scott, 20, is a former Northeast High School football captain who his family says was trying to turn his life around. Then he was fatally shot while riding his bike, according to St. Petersburg police. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Courtesy of Scott family
    Marquis Scott, 20, was shot while riding his bike. The Northeast High School football captain was turning his life around, his family said.
  8. Rendering of the new Shore Acres Recreation Center that will replace the current structure at 4230 Shore Acres Blvd. NE, St. Petersburg Wannemacher Jensen Architects
    The long-desired project is praised, but some neighbors worry about its proposed height and a new entrance and exit on busy 40th Avenue NE
  9. Less than a month after being fired, former St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love wants the agency to give him a job running its development nonprofit at the same $157,000 salary. That offer, part of ongoing negotiations over his severance, was rejected by the agency's board.
    Tony Love’s attorney tells the agency that fired him he wants full salary and benefits through 2020. The board rejects his offer.
  10. John Jonchuck returned to a Pinellas County courtroom last month to attend a hearing about whether he was entitled to a new trial. A judge on Tuesday ruled that he is not. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Jonchuck was convicted of first-degree murder in April. He dropped his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe Jonchuck, off a bridge in 2015.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement