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Trial begins in murder of elderly Pasco woman

NEW PORT RICHEY - After entering the small white house on Colrain Drive on Sept. 23, 2010, Deputy Peter Knorr kneeled next to the body of Ann Parlato. “I kind of kneeled down and looked under part of the sheet and observed a face that was battered or bludgeoned,” Knorr told the jury in a West Pasco Judicial Center courtroom. “It wasn’t a good (state). It was very unrecognizable actually.” He said he had no idea if the face belonged to a man or a woman. Today was the first day of testimony in the first degree murder trial of John E. Sexton, accused of killing and raping Parlato, 94, at her home. If found guilty in her death, Sexton will face the death penalty.
Hours after finding Parlato’s body, investigators arrived at Sexton’s Port Richey home, about a mile away from the murder scene, and found him wearing a gray USF T-shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops. The shirt and shorts were covered in dried blood. A pair of Sexton’s work boots found inside his home was also drenched in blood. Assistant state attorney Michael Halkitis said the blood came from the brutal murder inside Parlato’s home. “While she was alive, she was raped,” Halkitis told the jury during his opening statement. “After she died, she was stabbed a number of times. Her right breast was cut off.” Jerry Finley, a blood pattern forensic scientist, said Parlato was struck several times in the foyer of her home. She was then beaten while she lay on the floor. “She received at least seven blows in that area where she was found,” Finley said. “One of those blows, her body was in a raised position. In other words, she wasn’t lying on the floor. But for the remainder of those, she was laying on the floor.” Finley said blood splatter was found on a nearby bookshelf and the ceiling. Finley was one of nine witnesses called to the stand Tuesday. “I would just ask that you look for contradictions in the evidence,” defense attorney Dustin Anderson said during his opening statement. “Look for lack of evidence.” Parlato’s body was discovered on a Thursday about 12:30 p.m. during a regularly scheduled visit by a friend, Dorinda Lynn Cifelli, who was there just two days earlier. After parking in the driveway, Cifelli found the screen as well as the front door partially opened. As she entered, she saw dirt and grass clippings on the floor. Blood splatter was on the floor and walls and Parlato’s body was on the floor on her back a short distance away from the door. To the left of the body, was her cane and beside that was a knife, at least six inches in length. A sheet between Parlato’s legs covered her upper torso and head. “I went over and was like, ‘Oh Ann. Oh Ann,’ ” said Cifelli, the state’s first witness. “I picked up the sheet and saw her… her face was all purple on one side. I went over to the phone and called 911.” Three people who lived in the home next door testified they heard a loud noise inside Parlato’s home on the night of the murder. Devilyn Saunders and her then-boyfriend David Carlin and roommate Patrick Grattan went outside to investigate. All said they saw a blue truck backed into Parlato’s driveway and a man at the sink inside Parlato’s kitchen. “I saw the lawn care man,” Saunders said of Sexton, who regularly cut Parlato’s lawn. “He was at the sink. It sounded like he was at the sink doing dishes.” Carlin wrote down the license plate number of the truck parked in Parlato’s driveway. The license plate number supplied to deputies belonged to Sexton’s truck. The second day of testimony will resume Wednesday morning.
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