On September 12, 1986, 27-year-old Joseph Viscido Jr., a champion surfer and occasional drug dealer, was beaten and fatally shot in the head in his Deerfield Beach, Florida apartment by two men who were looking for his stash of cocaine.
The case quickly went cold, but Viscido’s father, Joseph Sr., poured the next four years and about $50,000 in personal funds into the hunt for his son’s killers.
He began by interviewing his son’s friends and later wore a hidden microphone to record conversations. His work culminated when Broward County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Peter Dallas, 28, for questioning in September, 1990. On September 6, Dallas confessed to taking part in the murder and named two accomplices, Carl Rosati and Peter Roussonicolos.
All three were indicted. Rosati and Roussonicolos were facing capital murder charges, but Dallas, 28, pleaded guilty to second degree murder in an agreement with prosecutors that required him to testify against Rosati and Roussonicolos.
In December, 1991, while Rosati and Roussonicolos were awaiting trial, Dallas recanted his confession, saying he had been coerced by Broward County detectives who he said threatened he would “fry in the electric chair” if he didn’t confess.
A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate and discovered that in 1988 agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put a Deerfield Beach police sergeant, Thomas Murray, in touch with an informant who claimed to know details about the Viscido murder. At the time, Murray put a concealed recording device on the informant who then spoke with another man who allegedly had information about the shooting.
During that conversation, the man told the informant that the murder was committed by Kerry Carbonell and “Papa Jim.”
Murray discounted the information, took the tape home and put it in a bureau drawer with his athletic socks and allegedly forgot about it because he stopped working out due to an injury.
At about the same time, investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they had found other evidence that the real killers were Carbonell, of Rhode Island, and James Traina, of Virginia.
On February 4, 1992, Traina and Carbonell were charged with the murder of Viscido. On the following day, the charges against Dallas, Rosati and Roussonicolos were dismissed.
All three filed wrongful prosecution lawsuits. Dallas settled for $225,000 in October, 2003. Roussonicolos settled for $89,000 and Rosati settled for $1 million.
Carbonell committed suicide before trial, hanging himself in his cell with a bed sheet. Traina was convicted on July 1, 1993, and was sentenced to life in prison.
– Maurice Possley