Former best friend held in murder Five now arrested in Florida killing

July 21, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Bobby Kent and Martin Puccio Jr. grew up together, went to school together, lifted weights together, were even arrested for prowling together.

But Mr. Puccio began to feel angry over long-simmering tensions between the two and plotted to kill his best friend, detectives said.

Yesterday, Mr. Puccio, the last of five suspects wanted in the murder of Mr. Kent, surrendered to the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

Mr. Puccio, 20, of Hollywood, was charged in the stabbing and beating death July 14 of Mr. Kent, 20, on a desolate stretch of road in far west Broward County.

Detectives said Mr. Puccio showed the most rage against his longtime friend.

"The person who inflicted the greatest wounds was Martin Puccio," sheriff's Lt. Richard Scheff alleged. "What you're seeing is all the slights and digs he has endured over the last few years as their relationship soured, manifesting themselves in his attack on Bobby Kent."

Five other members of the alleged conspiracy to kill Mr. Kent, four of them good friends of the victim, were charged with murder Monday after one of them told his uncle he knew about the killing.

Mr. Kent's body was found floating face down in a pond near Weston on Sunday.

"The motive wasn't anything of great substance. Bobby and Marty remained friends seemingly until the end," Lieutenant Scheff said.

Mr. Kent was stabbed in the back of the neck and the stomach and had his throat slit, detectives said. He had also been beaten with a bat and a steel pipe and then thrown into the water while still alive.

Arrested with Mr. Puccio were: Derek George Dzvirko, 19, of Pembroke Pines; Derek Leon Kaufman, 20, who lives near the area where Mr. Kent was killed; Lisa Marie Connelly, 18, of Pembroke Pines; and Donald Semenick, 18, and Alice Jean Willis, 17, both of Palm Bay in Brevard County.

Based on interviews with the six defendants and statements from others familiar with the case, detectives said they have a good idea of how the murder conspiracy evolved but still cannot explain what went on inside the conspirators' heads.

Mr. Puccio was Mr. Kent's best friend, a longtime neighbor and an elementary school pal. Ms. Willis was Mr. Kent's ex-girlfriend. Lately Ms. Willis had been dating Mr. Semenick. Ms. Connelly was Ms. Willis' best friend. Mr. Dzvirko is Ms. Connelly's cousin. Mr. Kaufman was a recent acquaintance of the group.

Lieutenant Scheff claimed that Mr. Puccio and Ms. Connelly were the first to talk about killing Mr. Kent and eventually got the others involved.

Mr. Semenick stabbed Mr. Kent in the neck, police said. Mr. Kent reached back, saw the blood and yelled to Mr. Puccio for help. Then Mr. Puccio stabbed his former best friend in the stomach, detectives said.

The others moved in, beating him with a bat and a pipe, then slitting his throat before dumping him in the pond, police said.

Lieutenant Scheff said: "I don't think they would have done it individually. Lisa kept asking people because she was hoping someone would talk her out of it. If one had said, 'This is wrong,' the next could have justified not doing it."

After the killing, Ms. Connelly prayed, Lieutenant Scheff said.

"Lisa remembers praying to God because she had committed a sin and didn't want to go to hell," Lieutenant Scheff said.

Jeffery Smith, a lawyer who is representing Mr. Dzvirko and Ms. Connelly, denied that either wielded weapons but said the official account seems accurate.

"It got to the point where every brag got bigger and bigger, and it got to the point where they talked themselves into a corner and couldn't back down," Mr. Smith said. "It went too far, too fast."

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