CLEARWATER — It was no secret Danny Papaleo had little use for Bob Greaves, a restaurant worker with a drinking problem who fathered a girl with Papaleo’s stepdaughter.
But the question put before jurors this week was whether Papaleo was so disgusted with Greaves that he lured him to his St. Petersburg house last year, bludgeoned him in the head at least 18 times with a hammer, and then set his own place on fire, either to cover up the crime or to finish the job.
Their answer was yes — and no.
After deliberating for nearly four hours on Friday, the jury found Papaleo, now 61, guilty of second-degree murder, not first-degree murder, the conviction prosecutors sought.
The jury found Papaleo killed Greaves on May 2, 2013, at the Papaleo household at 1030 13th St. N., but it was not premeditated.
Jurors did find Papaleo guilty of first-degree arson, the second charge filed by prosecutors.
Circuit Judge Thane Covert is scheduled to sentence Papaleo on Aug. 11. Papaleo could get about 22 years to life in prison, according to sentencing guidelines.
There was no doubt what prosecutors and Greaves’ family wants.
“I ask that this man just pay for what he’s done and spend his life in prison,” Papaleo’s stepdaughter, Michelle Moss, 23, told Covert.
Typically, Greaves would not have gone to the Papaleo house unless his 1-year-old daughter, Evie, or Evie’s mother, Moss, was there, prosecutors said.
And on that day, Moss and her mother, Georganne Papaleo, who sold life insurance with Danny Papaleo, had gone to Orlando to meet a representative with National Agents Alliance while Evie was with a babysitter.
But Greaves told his roommate he was to meet Danny Papaleo, who he described as his stepfather, to discuss a job, and Greaves was excited about the prospect. He sent a text message to Papaleo’s cellphone saying, “Hi I’m ready whenever we can meet,” according to court records.
Papaleo didn’t own any restaurants where Greaves could work, and both Georganne and Moss told detectives there was no way Papaleo, who was in charge of hiring people for their insurance company, would hire Greaves because Greaves was unreliable and didn’t have a car, according to a police report.
After firefighters arrived, Greaves was found dead in a porch at the back of the house, and Papaleo was taken to a St. Petersburg hospital, where he gave the first of several versions of what happened.
In this interview, Papaleo said a man named Joe — or Yo — who came to the house with Greaves was responsible for Greaves’ death. The rendition was so nonsensical and fantastic that even one of Papaleo’s defense attorneys, Assistant Public Defender Dwight Wolfe, told jurors it was not credible during his closing arguments Friday.
Detectives did track down a Joe who Greaves knew — Joe Deegan, a liquor store employee — but he had an alibi.
Still, Papaleo got in a few criticisms of Greaves during the 45-minute interview, saying Greaves only made $8 an hour, showed up for Christmas one year with a 12-pack of beer in tow, and had fallen behind in his $200-a-month child support payments for his stepdaughter.
Another rendition surfaced during a conversation Papaleo reportedly had with a fellow inmate at the Pinellas County Jail, during which Papaleo said he had invited Greaves to his house because Greaves owed him money from an insurance scam, and he knew Greaves couldn’t pay, so he had a “backup plan,” Assistant State Attorney Anthony Carlow told jurors during closing arguments.
Then, in a letter to Georganne, now his ex-wife, that Papaleo wrote from the jail, he said he killed Greaves, but it was in self-defense.
Wolfe pursued this theory during his closing arguments, saying it was possible Papaleo was going to give Greaves a job but changed his mind, and this enraged Greaves, who showed up with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit and attacked Papaleo.
Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub, however, told jurors there was no testimony introduced during the trial to support the back-and-forth over the job prospect that Wolfe described.
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