Jurors hear testimony in Pasco man’s death penalty trial
NEW PORT RICHEY -
John Sexton struggled for years with mental illness as well as a dependence on alcohol, his defense attorneys told jurors on Monday.
The man convicted in the brutal September 2010 murder and mutilation of 94-year-old Ann Parlato, the woman whose lawn he regularly cut, was the product of a violent home life as a child, his attorneys said.
The jurors, who found Sexton guilty of first-degree murder last month, listened to attorneys debate Sexton’s mental health during the penalty phase of the trial at the West Pasco Judicial Center.
The jury, which is expected to hear more testimony on Tuesday, will decide if Sexton will be given the death penalty or life in prison.
“We will present evidence that Mr. Sexton, possibly his entire life, has suffered from serious mental illness — bipolar disorder,” defense attorney Byron Hileman said. “One, self medication by use of alcohol, which exacerbated or made worse the underlying mental illness. He was also, because of his work, exposed for a long period of time … to industrial solvents.”
Several incidents were presented in an attempt to show Sexton’s compromised mental stability. In 1993, Sexton was placed in an Oregon medical facility because he slashed his wrists; in 2000, he spent 18 days in a rehabilitation facility for depression and alcohol abuse. In April 2009, Sexton was placed in a medical facility under the Baker Act in St. Petersburg. In October 2009, he entered a mental health facility for treatment of depression and alcoholism.
“Some of the factors involve being raised in a household with parents who both used alcohol,” said psychologist Dr. Valerie McClain during her testimony. “(There was also a) history of domestic violence the children were exposed to.”
Parlato was raped, beaten and mutilated inside her home at 8025 Colrain Drive in Port Richey on Sept. 22, 2010. She also was partially burned.
Several prosecution witnesses, including forensic investigators, said the T-shirt, khaki shorts and work boots belonging to Sexton were stained with Parlato’s blood.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement senior crime lab analyst testified bloody shoe prints found on Parlato’s floor matched Sexton’s work boots.
A cigarette butt, matching the type of cigarette Sexton smoked, was found in Parlato’s trash. Cigarette ashes were also found throughout the house, deemed out of character for a woman described as adamantly against smoking due to her asthma, witnesses testified.
Parlato’s next door neighbors reported hearing a loud thud in the early morning hours of Sept. 23, 2010. They went outside to investigate and found Sexton’s Dodge pickup backed into Parlato’s driveway. Moments later, they said he appeared in her kitchen window washing something in her kitchen sink.
Parlato’s body, covered by a sheet, was found on the floor near her front door by close friend Dorinda Cifelli on Sept. 23.