NEW PORT RICHEY — A judge sentenced John Sexton Jr. to death Friday for the murder and rape three years ago of a 94-year-old Port Richey woman who hired him to mow her lawn.
In handing down the sentence, Circuit Judge Mary Handsel called the Sept. 22, 2010, murder of Ann Parlato a “senseless, pitiless” crime.
A jury convicted Sexton in April and recommended the death penalty, and the judge agreed after reviewing the circumstances of the case.
A friend who went to Parlato’s home the day after her murder found her brutally beaten body covered by a sheet. She was raped with an object and her body was mutilated and set afire.
Police quickly closed in on Sexton, the victim’s yard man. Three neighbors testified they had seen him through the kitchen window the night of the murder and recognized him. Police found knives in the kitchen sink, along with a white ceramic vase that was used to bludgeon the woman beyond recognition.
Another witness noticed his truck parked in Parlato’s driveway and wrote down his license tag number.
Finally, when detectives arrived at Sexton’s Port Richey home, about a mile away from the murder scene, they found him wearing a gray USF T-shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops. The shirt and shorts were stained with Parlato’s blood. A pair of Sexton’s work boots found inside his home was also drenched in blood.
They found Parlato’s DNA under Sexton’s fingernails and cuticles.
Before the sentencing Friday, a relative and a friend of Parlato’s addressed the judge, painting a picture of a loving, trusting elderly woman whose trust was betrayed by Sexton.
“He denied my aunt the ability to live her life through her natural years and I would truly hope he is not able to live his life through his natural years,” said Jeri Barr, Parlato’s niece.
Barr also read a statement from Parlato’s oldest daughter, Maryanne Parlato, who does not live in the area and was unable to travel to Pasco for the sentencing.
In the statement, Maryanne Parlato said that “no human being or even animal” should have to endure the cruelty her mother did at the hands of Sexton.
“I wish you could personally experience the pain you inflicted on her,” the daughter’s statement said, addressing Sexton. “But the next best solution, so to speak, is to condemn you to death. It seems the easy way out for you, but we are after all civilized people.”
Dori Cifelli, the friend who found Parlato’s body, said for three years she has had to live with the images of what she saw that day.
“Not only was she robbed of her remaining years, but her family is left with her brutal murder,” Cifelli said.