Son accused of killing retired judge, dumping remains pleads not guilty

A Fort Lauderdale man accused of killing his father and dumping the remains at an old golf course in Boca Raton has pleaded not guilty.

James Scandirito Jr., 49, entered the plea in court Thursday morning. 

A grand jury indicted Scandirito Jr. on a charge of first-degree murder on April 19. The indictment alleges that Scandirito Jr. killed his father, a retired judge from Michigan, “utilizing unspecified means.”

Scandirito Jr. was arrested April 9 in Alachua County after he stole a license plate and fled north in an attempt to avoid being caught, Boca Raton police said.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Scandirito’s Ford Escape was discovered by police on Easter Sunday at Knowles Park in Delray Beach, but the 74-year-old Boca Raton man’s cellphone, wallet and keys were nowhere to be found.

Instead, police found a three-day-old receipt from Home Depot on the passenger floorboard. It showed a cash transaction, dated March 29 at 6:06 a.m., in which a hand truck and gas can had been purchased.

When asked by police why his father was at Home Depot so early in the morning, Scandirito Jr. said he bought the items to use with a pressure washer that he was taking back to his apartment in Fort Lauderdale.

It was the first of many lies that police allege Scandirito Jr. told them over the next several days.

During the search for Scandirito, his son told police that he didn’t see any recent credit card or bank activity on his father’s accounts. However, financial records showed that there were several purchases made on Scandirito’s debit card between March 28 and March 30.

“Several items were purchased at Publix, including duct tape, garbage bags and cleaning supplies,” Detective Robert Volguardson wrote in the probable cause affidavit.

It was Scandirito Jr. seen on surveillance video making the purchases, Volguardson wrote.

A review of the surveillance video from Knowles Park also showed Scandirito’s SUV entering the park about 8:30 a.m. March 31. A review of Scandirito’s cellphone records showed it was last used 13 minutes later.

Financial records showed Scandirito Jr. making several attempts to withdraw $9,500 from a beneficiary account in his father’s name, and he also withdrew $1,400 in cash — almost the entire amount — from his personal checking account.

On the morning of March 31, Scandirito Jr. and his father’s friend, Gary Goodin, were supposed to watch a basketball game with Scandirito at his Boca Raton home, but he never arrived. Scandirito Jr. told police he sent a text message and tried to call his father’s phone, but he got no reply or answer. 

Goodin also called Scandirito’s phone, which went straight to voicemail. The next morning, Goodin called nearby hospitals looking for his friend and eventually contacted police.

During an April 3 interview with detectives, Scandirito Jr. said he played golf with father on the morning of March 28, ran some errands and returned to his father’s home to drink tequila and celebrate what would have been his late mother’s birthday. Scandirito Jr. said he and his father drank throughout the night, so he decided to sleep over.

The next morning, Scandirito Jr. said, his father told him that he was going to Miami with a friend to watch a tennis match, so he decided to go back to Fort Lauderdale. Scandirito Jr. told police that his father asked him to clean out the garage, so they decided to swap vehicles. When Scandirito Jr. got to the home, his father wasn’t there.

Scandirito Jr. told police that he spent another night there, and when his father returned mid-morning, Scandirito Jr. didn’t ask where he had been. They exchanged vehicles and he went back to Fort Lauderdale.

It wasn’t until about midnight March 31 that Scandirito Jr. said he received a call from his father’s cellphone, but he didn’t answer.

During an April 3 search of the home, detectives found the presence of blood drops in the garage, including on the hand truck that had been purchased from Home Depot, the affidavit said.

Meanwhile, police were conducting surveillance on Scandirito Jr., who made several trips back and forth between Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Among the places Scandirito Jr. went was to the old Ocean Breeze Golf Course, the affidavit said. He arrived carrying a small bag and left with a suitcase and wearing a different set of clothes.

Scandirito Jr. was then seen carrying the suitcase and disposing of it in a dumpster, the affidavit said.
The suitcase, along with a smaller suitcase inside of it, was recovered by police and contained “bloody clothing, maggots and the smell of decomposing remains.”

Within a few hours, human remains were found on the golf course, buried about 4 feet deep. An associate medical examiner later identified the remains as those of Scandirito.

A police dive team searched a pond near where the remains were discovered and found a shovel in the water about 20 yards from shore, the affidavit said.

Scandirito’s cellphone records showed that between March 28 and March 31, his phone was near the golf course, his son’s Fort Lauderdale apartment and his Boca Raton home. Scandirito Jr.’s cellphone records showed that it was at Knowles Park one day before Delray Beach police found his father’s SUV there, the affidavit said.

Investigators concluded that Scandirito was killed on or about March 28.

Volguardson wrote that Scandirito Jr. had not tried to contact police or family members since the April 3 search of his father’s home.

Scandirito’s financial adviser told detectives that he had a portfolio worth about $800,000.

“Scandirito Jr. is the sole beneficiary on many of these accounts,” Volguardson wrote.

Also Thursday, a trial date was set for September. 

Assistant state attorney Andrew Slater filed a May 4 court document that the state would not seek the death penalty.

Scandirito Jr. remains in a Palm Beach County jail without bond.

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South Florida man bites dog’s ear ‘to establish dominance’

A South Florida man told a deputy he bit a dog’s ear in an effort “to establish dominance,” according to an arrest report.

Patrick Campbell, 27, of Lake Worth, was arrested Thursday on a charge of aggravated animal cruelty.

According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy went to Campbell’s home after receiving a complaint of some abusing a dog. The caller claimed to hear “slamming noises coming from the apartment.”

When the deputy arrived, he was greeted by Campbell’s roommates, who claimed Campbell was disciplining his 2-year-old Siberian husky named Dimitri. The men told the deputy that Campbell “beat the hell out of him.”

The deputy found the dog in Campbell’s bedroom closet. The deputy said the room smelled of urine and feces and there was blood on the floor.

When the deputy questioned Campbell about the blood coming from Dimitri’s ear, Campbell described what he said happened, according to the report.

“I bit him to establish dominance,” Campbell said, according to the report.

Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control took Dimitri. Campbell was taken to jail.

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Brightline to begin service to Miami next weekend

Brightline will begin service to Miami will begin next weekend.The announcement was made Friday morning during a media preview to showcase the new MiamiCentral station.Test runs have been going on between Fort Lauderdale and Miami for several weeks. No…

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Detective says Nouman Raja gave false statements about Corey Jones shooting

A detective testified Tuesday that a former Palm Beach Gardens police officer charged in the fatal shooting of Corey Jones told him a version of events that didn’t match the evidence.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kenny Smith said Nouman Raja told him hours after the October 2015 shooting that he told Jones he was a police officer and made numerous commands to “drop the gun” before he opened fire. But a recording of Jones’ call to a tow truck dispatcher doesn’t seem to indicate that Raja did either.

In the recording, Raja never identifies himself and is heard opening fire after telling Jones to show his hands.

Raja’s attorneys are trying to convince Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer to dismiss manslaughter and other charges under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, claiming Raja feared for his life because Jones pulled a gun. Jones had a concealed weapons permit.

Prosecutors claim Raja instigated the confrontation because he was working undercover and never identified himself as a police officer, leading Jones to believe that Raja was a robber.

Jones, 31, was stranded on the side of an Interstate 95 exit ramp in Palm Beach Gardens after his SUV had broken down when he was shot and killed by Raja on Oct. 18, 2015.

Dr. John Marraccini testified for the defense Tuesday that Jones might not have left a blood trail after he was shot.

Christopher Chapman, a use-of-force instructor, also testified for the defense, saying that an officer may have felt threatened in the scenario that Raja faced.

“All six shots were justifiable?” a prosecutor asked Chapman during his testimony.

“Ma’am, I told you that a police officer placed in Officer Raja’s position would have reasonably believed that their life was in danger when a gun was pointed at them — a gun with a laser on it,” Chapman said.

The hearing was expected to conclude Tuesday afternoon, but a decision may not come right away.

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Zachary Cruz walks out of Broward County jail after second arrest

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz’s adoptive brother, Zachary Cruz, received a warning from Judge Melinda Brown before she let him go Thursday. 

“They are watching you,” Brown said in court. 

Since the Valentine’s Day massacre, Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies have arrested the 18-year-old former MSD student twice. He admitted to trespassing at MSD while skateboarding after he was arrested March 19th, and he lso admitted to driving without a license when he was arrested Tuesday. 

Zachary Cruz was accused of violating the terms of his probation. Brown also warned him that if a deputy finds him driving without a license again, he will be arrested and held in custody for about two months. 

His defense attorney, Mark Lowry, first filed a not guilty plea Wednesday night, saying his client had neither been charged nor cited in Palm Beach County. He was able to work out a plea agreement with prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy indicating he had been barred from being at any school in which he was not a student. But deputies said he was was driving within 25 feet of a school.  

Zachary Cruz’s treatment — including allegations that he was tortured and coerced into the terms of his plea deal — after the Valentine’s Day massacre alarmed attorneys from Nexus Services, a Virginia-based advocacy group related to Nexus, which provides GPS tracking services for defendants.

Nexus Services filed a lawsuit claiming Zachary Cruz’s constitutional rights were being violated. They claim deputies victimized Zachary Cruz with sleep deprivation tactics, overuse of a restraint vest and constant intense lighting.

Nexus Services president, Mike Donovan, said these are “procedures that amount to torture under the Geneva Convention, and are behaviors we do not permit soldiers to use in the battlefield.” And he had a message for Broward Sheriff Scott Israel: “Your deputies don’t have confidence in you. The people don’t have confidence in you. You need to go!”

Donovan said he was also concerned about Broward County Judge Kim Theresa Mollica’s order to hold Zachary Cruz on a “clearly excessive” $500,000 bond instead of the $25 bond that was required for the charge of trespassing in March. 

Donovan’s Libre by Nexus, an immigration bond services company, is the subject of probes by the attorneys general of Virginia, New York, Washington state and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to state and federal court records, The Washington Post reported in April. He has been accused of preying on detained immigrants

His company, founded in 2013, provides GPS ankle devices, and charges undocumented immigrants $420 per month for the service. Nexus Services launched their Nexus Derechos Humanos, a pro bono legal arm to help undocumented migrants. Dallas Le Pierre, an attorney with the pro bono office, was at the news conference in Broward to talk about Zachary Cruz’s case Thursday. 

“The treatment he received was coercive,” LePierre said. “That makes the contract, and the plea deal was a contract, unconscionable.”

Correction: This story originally reported Zachary Cruz required a bond to be released Thursday, but his attorney Mark Lowry later clarified it did not. 

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Parkland school shooting survivors take the stage to heal

Rehearsals for “Spring Awakening” began before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. For the survivors performing at the production’s opening night Wednesday, it was a courageous step forward.

“Even after everything that happened, we need this show now more than ever,” Sawyer Garrity said.

Garrity is one of six Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors, who took the stage for Wednesday’s premiere at the Black Box Theater in Boca Raton.

“I’m really excited and I’m also really nervous,” said Garrity, who plays Wendla, the female lead.

Stoneman Douglas senior Cameron Kasky, one of the leaders of student activists behind the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, also stars.

This wasn’t your average night of community theater. The production is generating national attention. Writers from Vanity Fair and the New York Times were in the audience along with the musical’s creators, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik.

Wednesday performance was sold out and so are two of the next three shows.

The Tony award winning Broadway musical is a coming-of-age story set in late 19th-century Germany.

“It’s about teenagers using their voice and standing up to adults, which is just so relevant to what’s going on now,” Garrity said.

Garrity and her classmates started rehearsing for the play before the mass shooting at the school that left 17 people dead and wounded more than a dozen others.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior said going on with the show wasn’t easy.

“There was like that question — Should we do the show? Can we even do the show? Garrity said. “We have to finish what we started.”

“Spring Awakening” continues with sold out performances Sunday and Monday at Boca Black Box Center for the Arts, 8221 Glades Road, No. 10, in Boca Raton. Seats are still available for the final performance at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $20 and $30. For tickets, call 561-483-9036 or visit BocaBlackBox.com or BarclayPerformingArts.com.

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