Medical examiner: Pasco woman suffered fatal beating with blunt object
NEW PORT RICHEY - A Pasco jury could decide John Sexton’s fate on Friday in his first-degree murder trial. Following three days of testimony in the 2010 killing of 94-year-old Ann Parlato, prosecutors and Sexton’s defense attorneys will begin closing arguments Friday morning. Sexton, who often cut the lawn at Parlato’s New Port Richey home, is accused of raping and killing Parlato in her home. If convicted of the killing, which took place in the late night hours of Sept. 22, 2010, Sexton, 49, will face the death penalty.Medical examiner Dr. Jon Thogmartin testified Thursday on the violent final moments of Parlato’s life. The New Port Richey woman was brutally beaten inside her home. She was raped with an object and then partially burned. “She had sharp force injury, but that didn’t kill her,” Dr. Thogmartin said. “That had nothing to do with her death. Her injuries were caused by her head hitting a blunt object or a blunt object hitting her head. But looking at the context of the scene, her head was stationary, so she died of repeated blows to the head and neck.” Thogmartin performed the autopsy on Parlato’s body on Sept. 24, one day after she was found. He said Parlato’s face had so many fractures that it was “misshapen.” Thogmartin listed injuries suffered by Parlato during the attack, which included broken bones in her face, broken ribs and mutilation. State attorneys called 29 witnesses to the stand, while the defense team used four witnesses – three investigators from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and John Sexton’s wife, Catherine. Catherine Sexton testified that she has regularly corresponded with her husband since his 2010 arrest. During testimony Thursday, her second time on the stand in two days, she said her husband has not attempted to guide her testimony. When she left the stand Wednesday, she mouthed the words “I love you.” “I believe in his innocence,” she said Thursday when asked about that exchange. She testified Wednesday that her husband didn’t arrive home until 2 a.m. Sept. 23 and that his clothing did not have blood on it. Several state witnesses, including forensic investigators, said the University of South Florida T-shirt, khaki shorts and work boots belonging to Sexton was stained with Parlato’s blood. The items were shown in court, bearing stains circled with a black marker. When asked by assistant state attorney Michael Halkitis if her husband gives her direction on what she tells authorities, she allowed: “He may, yes.” Later she said he hasn’t told her how to testify, adding that they “know the law.” The state’s final witness, Diane McConaghey, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement senior crime lab analyst, testified on her investigation of bloody shoe impressions found on Parlato’s laminate flooring. Standing at the jury box with assistant state attorney Chris LaBruzzo, she placed a clear, plastic overlay of Sexton’s right work boot over a photo of a bloody shoe print from Parlato’s floor. “You have the orientation of the dots and the boomerang-shaped elements,” McConaghey said, as jury members stood, peering at the photo. During cross examination, defense attorney Dustin Anderson asked if McConaghey could say with certainty that boot was Sexton’s. She answered no, but on re-direct by LaBruzzo, McConaghey said the work boots and the bloody prints “could” be a match. Parlato’s next door neighbors reported hearing a loud thud sometime between midnight and 12:30 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 22, 2010. They went outside to investigate and found Sexton’s Dodge pickup backed into Parlato’s driveway. Moments later, they said Sexton appeared in the kitchen window washing something in Parlato’s kitchen sink. Her body was found about 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 by close friend Dorinda Cifelli. Her nude body lying on the floor near her front door was covered by a sheet.