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Retired Judge Dismembered And Buried In An Abandoned Golf Course In Florida
Investigators looked into a theory that 74-year-old Skip Scandirito disappeared while kayaking with a mystery woman he met at a golf course.
James “Skip” Scandirito and his wife, Teri, moved from Michigan to the sunny shores of Boca Raton, Florida. There, the former judge and his wife spent their retirement on the Atlantic Coast, where you could find the couple playing golf at the Ocean Breeze golf course or hanging poolside in the backyard. Their little south Floridan paradise even attracted their only child, Jimmy, who soon followed them to the Sunshine State.
“Jimmy, Skip, and Teri were in Boca Raton, Florida, for 20 years,” Skip’s sister, Sharon Scobel, told “Buried in The Backyard,” airing Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “Before tragedy happened.”
The matriarch of the household, Teri Scandirito, was diagnosed with lung cancer and died months later. Although Teri’s passing devastated relatives, it also brought father and son closer together.
One year after Teri’s passing, Skip’s friend, Gary Goodin, decided to visit the Scandiritos down in Florida to watch their favorite Michigan basketball team play in the championships. Skip texted Goodin to tell him that he was off to go kayaking but would be back to join Goodub and Jimmy before the big game.
When Gary arrived, Skip wasn’t there. Goodin and Jimmy’s concerns grew throughout the day, and on the morning of Easter Sunday of 2018, Gary Goodin called authorities to report his friend missing.
Jimmy told authorities that he and his father had previously played golf, where Skip allegedly met an unidentified 62-year-old woman on the links. Jimmy said the pair made plans to go kayaking together on the morning of Skip’s disappearance.
“We knew they hadn’t returned from a kayaking trip. There was concern that they might have been an accident somewhere on the water,” said Tim Kurdys of the Boca Raton Police Department. “Or they could be possibly injured or even deceased.”
With hundreds of waterways in the area, the search for Skip and the unknown woman was nothing short of challenging. Fliers with information about Skip and his vehicle were posted at local marinas along the Intracoastal Waterway. Skip’s white SUV was soon found near a boat ramp in Knowles Park, just 10 to 15 minutes from the Scandirito home.
Fearing Skip or his companion faced a medical emergency while out to sea, agencies united to search the waters, but to no avail.
Was it possible that the couple encountered trouble at the boat ramp?
“South Florida is absolutely a hotbed for drug trafficking and narcotics activity,” said Palm Beach Assistant District Attorney Emily Walters. “But it was reported that, in terms of that specific boat ramp, it has not been necessarily pegged as a hotbed for illegal narcotics trafficking.”
Investigators refocused on the sign-in logs from the Southwinds Golf Club where Skip allegedly met his kayaking companion, but no one there could account for the mystery woman. Furthermore, no one reported a woman’s disappearance to local law enforcement agencies that would have set off any red flags in the case.
Investigators concluded there was no such woman. But the investigation shifted when they found a piece of key evidence in Skip’s vehicle.
“Law enforcement was able to uncover a crumpled receipt from Home Depot that had a timestamp of about 6 in the morning, during the timeframe that Skip Scandirito was missing,” said ADA Walters.
Kurdys told “Buried In The Backyard” that it seemed as if whoever went to Home Depot would have been there at opening time. Upon examining the business’s surveillance video, they found Jimmy was the day’s first customer at Home Depot. There, he purchased a red hand truck and a gasoline tank.
But Jimmy was able to easily explain this: He and his father switched vehicles, and he must have dropped the receipt when driving Skip’s SUV.
“I thought, ‘He’s gonna turn up,’” said Skip’s sister, Sharon. “And so a couple days later, when they didn’t find him, we couldn’t believe it.”
Authorities didn’t want to leave any stone unturned when they returned to Jimmy and family friend Gary Goodin, who were at Skip’s home when Skip vanished. Investigators with the Boca Raton Police Department put a surveillance team to watch Goodin and Jimmy, who’d since left Skip’s house and began staying at a local hotel.
Back at a search of Skip’s house, investigators found what appeared to be “coagulated blood” in the garage.
“The amount of blood we found, it wasn’t like a prick of his finger,” said Kurdys of the Boca Raton Police. “It was a large amount of blood that we discovered in the garage.”
It was even more disturbing when they found more blood in the wheel of the hand truck recently purchased by Jimmy Scandirito. Hoping to learn what motive Jimmy might have had to kill his own father, police looked into Skip’s financial records and discovered his bank cards were used after his disappearance. More surveillance footage from local grocery stores revealed it was Jimmy. This time, he purchased cleaning supplies and garbage bags.
Police also found a forged check for $9,500 made out to Jimmy.
“I was informed by the detective that Jimmy was indeed a suspect in this case,” Skip’s niece, Ellie Scandirito, told “Buried in The Backyard.” “I didn’t believe it.”
But was Skip’s friend, Gary Goodin, involved in Skip’s disappearance? That’s what police hoped to uncover when they assigned a surveillance team to tail the two men.
Investigators followed Jimmy from the local hotel when he left at around 3:00 a.m. on April 4, 2018. Jimmy drove to the Ocean Breeze Golf Course, a club where Skip Scandirito was a golf course marshal years prior. The links had sat abandoned since the financial crisis that struck the county in the mid-2000s.
“That’s when things got pretty interesting, said Kurdys. “He parked his Prius. He walked onto the golf course by himself with nothing, and when he came back about 45 minutes later, he was dragging a suitcase with him.”
The surveillance team on the ground followed him as he drove to a dumpster and dropped the suitcase inside. The Crime Scene Unit recovered the suitcase, which contained a smaller case inside, containing maggot-infested human remains.
At daybreak, authorities descended onto the abandoned golf course, where they found two garbage bags buried in the sand. One bag contained the upper half of a man’s torso, while the other held the lower half.
“This case started as a missing person,” said Palm Beach County Forensic Examiner Ralph Saccone. “Now it’s a homicide investigation.”
The victim’s limbs and head were never recovered, making formal identification hard to determine. However, a postmortem examination used the serial number from surgical wiring found in the victim’s chest cavity, proving it was missing man Skip Scandirito.
“That was hard to hear,” said his sister, Sharon Scobel. “I thought they’d find my brother, but not in pieces.”
“It’s more than the mind can comprehend,” added Ellie Scandirito. “I couldn’t even imagine him in pieces because I knew him as a whole person.”
Police lost sight of Jimmy Scnadirito during their stakeout but found Gary Goodin back in his hotel room. He seemed genuinely terrified by what police found of Skip and gave no indication to investigators that he was involved.
He was fully eliminated as a person of interest in the case when the medical examiner ruled that Skip died three days before Goodin arrived in Florida.
Detectives identified IP addresses used to transfer money between Skip and Jimmy’s bank accounts and ultimately found Jimmy was staying at a hotel in Bonita Springs, Florida, two hours away from Skip Scandirito’s home.
They pulled Skip over in his vehicle and arrested him for the murder of his father. He was also charged with the abuse of a corpse.
But murder would be difficult to prove since all they had was a dissected torso and no proof of how Skip was killed. What prosecutors did have was a theory: That Jimmy, who was flat broke, stood to gain Skip’s $800,000 inheritance upon his father’s death. The courts heard Jimmy was used to his mother, Teri, financially supporting him, but that line of cash ended with her passing.
Prosecutors alleged Jimmy killed Skip three days before Gary Goodin’s expected arrival and that Jimmy sent him the phony text to say he was off to go kayaking with the woman who never existed.
In court, the defense admitted that Jimmy did dismember his father but claimed he did not murder him. Jimmy alleged that he and his father were using cocaine and that Skip died of a drug overdose.
“I did not kill my dad,” Jimmy said on the stand, as shown in video obtained by “Buried in The Backyard.” “My first reaction was, ‘Oh no, I’m gonna get in trouble because he died snorting my cocaine…I’m gonna have to dismember my dad to be able to move him out of the house.’”
Toxicology reports, however, showed there was no cocaine in Skip Scandirto’s system, according to "Buried In The Backyard."
A jury found Jimmy not guilty of first-degree murder.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said Sharon Scobel. “It was like someone took a sledgehammer to me that he got away with it.”
However, the defendant was convicted of abuse of a corpse and was sentenced to the maximum of 15 years behind bars. Although Jimmy wasn’t found guilty of his father’s murder, Skip’s family filed a civil suit against Jimmy so that he could not receive any monies from his father’s inheritance.
The civil suit is still pending.
“Skip was a wonderful person,” his sister continued. “He loved life. He loved people. He loved his family. And I don’t want him to be forgotten.”
Jimmy Scandirito is incarcerated at the Graceville Work Camp in Graceville, Florida. He is scheduled to be released in July 2032.