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Florida arrest rekindles interest in unsolved killing

| Friday, April 20, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

The arrest of a former Washington County man for the slaying of a woman in Florida may help police solve the shooting death of the suspect's father nearly 15 years ago, a state police investigator said Thursday.

Brian Calzacorto, 37, of Tampa Bay, Fla., was arrested and jailed Wednesday on a charge of first-degree murder in the 1990 stabbing death of Laurie Colannino, 23, a cocktail waitress and neighbor in his Florida apartment complex.

The woman had been stabbed more than 20 times and raped, said police in Florida, who charged Calzacorto after finding DNA evidence they said links him to the crime.

Calzacorto's father, Donora police Officer Alfred Calzacorto Sr., 60, was found shot to death in October 1986.

A coroner's jury eventually recommended Brian Calzacorto be charged with his father's death, but investigators could never get enough evidence to arrest anyone in the case.

The same jury also recommended that members of the Calzacorto family be prosecuted for failing to cooperate with the investigation.

'I was kind of glad that he was arrested because I thought maybe they could get him to roll over for this thing ... if he did it,' said retired Trooper Edward Pauley, the lead investigator in the elder Calzacorto's death.

During a coroner's inquest in January 1987, Calzacorto's widow, Mary Ann, and several family members exercised their Fifth Amendment rights 130 times, refusing to answer questions.

Brian's twin brother, Alfred Calzacorto Jr., was charged with interfering with the investigation into his father's death, but was cleared during a jury trial in 1988.

A Donora policeman was charged with perjury and making false reports but was acquitted during a jury trial in 1987.

Three other people, including the victim's daughter and his sister-in-law, also were charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution, but a district justice dismissed those charges during preliminary hearings.

Police in Florida said yesterday that Alfred Calzacorto Jr. is not a suspect in Colannino's death.

Former Washington County Coroner Farrell Jackson, now 85, presided over the 1987 inquest and remembers it well.

'Take the Fifth, take the Fifth, take the Fifth,' Jackson said last night.

'That family was protecting someone in the family, and I have no doubt it was him (Brian Calzacorto). Of course, evidence is another thing.'

Jackson was pleased to hear that an arrest had been made in the Florida case, and hopes it will spur a Calzacorto family member to come forward.

'I wonder how they will feel that they took the Fifth when they hear about the death of that woman in Florida. I think they would stand up and go to the District Attorney's Office and say, 'I will tell you the story,' so he (Brian Calzacorto) can be brought back here and prosecuted.'

'It's a very interesting story. This arrest doesn't surprise me,' said Charleroi attorney Herman Bigi, who represented some family members.

Donora Mayor John Lignelli was council president when the homicide occurred.

'We're certainly hoping we can get this (the Donora homicide) solved, one way or the other,' Lignelli said. 'You hate like the dickens to see something in your community that's unsolved. Everyone feels the same - they're shocked ... and they're wondering if they have any solid evidence (for the Donora case.)'

Lt. Steve Shipman, a supervisor for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in Clearwater, Fla., credits modern DNA technology and old-fashioned police work for the arrest in the 1990 case.

Shipman outlined details of the crime and the investigation during a phone interview yesterday.

Shipman said Colannino had just returned home when she was accosted in her apartment in Largo, Fla.

'She was (found) face down and she was covered with blood. She had been stabbed a number of times in the chest ... she also had her throat cut ... and it appeared she had been raped.'

Investigators began looking at Brian Calzacorto's possible involvement in the case in 1994, but it was only recently that police obtained the DNA evidence that they say led them to charge him.

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