An elderly woman falls down a staircase and dies. It could easily be an accident ... but what if it wasn't? What if, instead, it was premeditated murder?
On December 19, 2001, a 911 call made shortly before midnight reported that 84-year-old Marina Calabro had fallen to her death at her three-story family home in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Police arrived on the scene about 15 minutes later. Marina, a retired hairdresser who, despite her age, was described as “spry” and independent, was lying dead next to a bag of trash at the bottom of a staircase. She had multiple contusions and lacerations to her head. Blood had pooled around her face.
Officials reasoned that Marina, who never married or had children, could have slipped and fallen while taking out the garbage.
Her body had been found by Anthony Calabro, the victim’s 19-year-old great-nephew, who lived in the house. He and a friend, Thomas Lally, 21, had returned to the home after being out all day and then discovered Marina.
Questioned separately by authorities, the young men’s stories matched but were not so consistent that they seemed “contrived,” Chief Paul Keenan, former investigator for the Quincy Police Department, told “Accident, Suicide or Murder,” airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
An autopsy was performed to help rule out any suspicions that Marina’s body had been staged. It revealed Marina died around 3 p.m, and that the cause of death was determined to be blunt trauma.
Investigators weren’t convinced that the death had been an accident, though. They looked to people closest to the victim and began with Anthony Calabro, who’d been generously taken in by his great-aunt.
Officials learned that Lally and Jason Weir, another one of Anthony’s slacker pals, had become regular fixtures in the Calabro home. The three rudderless friends shared a love for heavy metal. Keenan likened them to “misfit toys.”
Even after her death, Marina looked out for her great-nephew, according to “Accident, Suicide or Murder.” Along with his father, Anthony was the major benefactor of her estate, which included her $500,000 home.
Authorities dug deep into the Calabro family dynamics to see if the desire for money could have had anything to do with Marina’s death. They also scrutinized how Anthony was spending his inheritance. They found that he recklessly splurged on booze, a sports car, band equipment, and gifts. He essentially turned his part of the family home into a frat house. A family friend said that Marina “would have a heart attack” if she saw what had become of her home.
Then, on October 13, 2002, an unexpected game-changing lead came in from Anthony’s friend, Jim Morel, who’d come in with his father to discuss Marina’s death.
Morel said that Weir had casually mentioned that Marina hadn’t died on her own. He went on to tell investigators that Weir said Lally had beaten Marina to death. As he spoke with authorities, he realized that he could become a suspect, Morel told producers, so he “offered to wear a wire” so the guilty parties were brought to justice.
A plan was set in motion to catch Weir on tape. During a car ride with Weir, Morel raised the subject of Marina. Weir said that Anthony left him and Lally alone to carry out the cold-blooded plan of attack. He claimed Lally beat Marina with a yellow tea pot and a pan while Anthony waited outside as a lookout.
They then carefully staged the body, using tips they’d gleaned from watching true-crime TV shows. The murder weapons were discarded at a wooded area near Meadowbrook Pond.
Weir told Morel that he and Lally were promised $30,000 for their part in the crime. He said Anthony, who was impatient for his great-aunt to die sooner than later, had only come through with less than $7,000 since, though.
With the taped conversation, investigators now had three prime suspects. They knew that recovering the murder weapons would be crucial to the case, so they conducted a search at Meadowbrook Pond on October 18, 2002. When the search came up empty, authorities questioned whether Weir had told the truth about where the weapons had been stashed.
A week after the search of the pond area, though, the DA determined that detectives still had enough to charge Anthony Calabro, Weir, and Lally for Marina’s murder.
After his arrest, Weir spilled about the crime, investigators told “Accident, Suicide or Murder.” He repeated the story he had told Morel and noted that Anthony had the most to gain financially. After Lally was arrested, however, he told authorities that Weir had been the aggressor in the murder.
Detectives still needed to recover the murder weapons. On November 8, 2002, Meadowbrook Pond was drained and the teapot and pan were finally recovered. However, the elements had destroyed any forensic evidence.
Authorities viewed the murder as premeditated and planned by Anthony, who had the most to gain from his great-aunt’s death.They believed Lally committed the murder and Weir was present at the time to help stage the body. For his cooperation and testimony, Weir worked out a deal: seven years behind bars as an accessory to murder.
In March 2006, the trial began for Lally, who turned the tables on prosecutors. In court, Lally said that all of the atrocities Weir claimed that he had committed had actually been done by Weir, according to “Accident, Suicide or Murder.” But after five hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a guilty verdict. Lally was eventually sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In June 2006, Anthony Calabro pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life, with the possibility of parole in 15 years.
Jason Weir was released from prison in 2009, according to producers. Anthony Calabro, meanwhile, will be eligible for parole in September 2021. Thomas Lally will spend the rest of his life incarcerated.
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