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Cousins Who Allegedly Had Romantic Affair Murder A Man And Embark On Cross-Country Chase
Candie Zito had dated Anthony Gibson when he was still in high school, even though she was 10 years older than him. Years after their breakup, she came back into his life in a shocking way.
Candie Zito and Anthony Gibson dated once, but had been broken up for years when Gibson turned up murdered. Why would she have murdered her former partner?
Candie Renee Zito was born in 1984 and grew up in Chelsea, Alabama, outside Birmingham. Her parents were affluent and her siblings were high achievers in school and sports. Candie Zito, not so much.
Zito married young but it didn’t last. Afterward, she moved into a notorious party house up the road in Leeds, Alabama. That’s where she met and began dating Anthony Gibson. He was still in high school at the time.
Anthony Shane Gibson was born in 1994 and grew up in Harpersville, Alabama. Though his father was a single parent, there was plenty of support at home from his extended family. In high school, Gibson was a popular student who was passionate about music. After graduating, he worked for his family’s siding company and hoped to go into business for himself one day.
Gibson had a wide network of people he was in touch with. When he went silent on July 2, 2015, people took notice.
“At first it was like, ‘OK, well, Anthony’s just doing his thing and he didn’t tell nobody,” Gibson’s uncle, Shawn Dodson, told "Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “I tried to contact him several times with no answer and that’s when I’m starting to say, 'OK, maybe something is wrong.'"
Then, on the afternoon of July 5, 2015, a couple riding four-wheelers through a rural area in Leeds discovered a dead body at the site of what looked like a bonfire, according to a 2015 article from Birmingham Real-Time News.
The victim had been burned beyond recognition. A single fingerprint was lifted off one hand and run through a database. It identified the victim as Anthony Gibson, according to a separate 2015 Birmingham Real-Time News report.
“The coroner's report that was provided gives us information that the victim had a broken femur and had severe hemorrhaging around that wound. This indicates to us that this injury could have caused the victim's death without medical attention,” former Leeds Police Detective Kevin Palmer told producers.
At the time of his death, Gibson was living with his grandmother, Caffie Lee. Detectives spoke with Lee, who said she last saw Gibson on the night of July 2 when he asked to borrow her car, a white Ford Escort.
The next morning, Lee’s car was missing and Gibson’s bed was unmade. The family tried to file a missing person’s report but the Harpersville Police said he hadn’t been gone long enough.
Gibson’s phone was in his grandmother’s name so she was able to check the call log. She noted two phone numbers he was in touch with on the night of his disappearance.
At 6:30 that night, Gibson called Candie Zito. Detectives contacted Zito, who claimed she hadn’t spoken to Gibson in years.
A second call at 8 p.m. was to Gibson’s current girlfriend, Jessica Irwin. When contacted by police, Irwin said she was supposed to meet Gibson on the night of his disappearance but he never showed up.
On July 9, detectives received an anonymous tip that a local drug dealer named Lane Lowery might be connected to Gibson’s death. Lowery’s girlfriend at the time was Candie Zito. Kevin Palmer again contacted Zito, who was unwilling to further cooperate with authorities.
Detectives went to Zito's last known address: her parents' house. There they met her brother, Zane, who said he was checking on the property while his parents were away.
“In speaking with Candie’s brother Zane we learned that Candie was not allowed inside the residence at all because of her past behavior and missteps in her adult life. Candie apparently had been sleeping in a tent in the backyard of her parents' residence,” Palmer told producers.
A national BOLO alert was issued for Candie Zito. Authorities believed she was traveling in Caffie Lee’s stolen white Ford Escort.
On July 11, 2015, Candie Zito showed up at her grandmother’s home in Daviess County, Indiana. Instead of offering shelter, her grandmother called 911.
While racing to the scene, police spotted a white Ford Escort in the parking lot of a Dollar General store. The driver ignored instructions to turn off the vehicle and initiated a dangerous chase that would speed through several counties.
During the course of the pursuit, the driver ran several vehicles off the road before losing control, running down an embankment, and smashing into a tree. Inside the wreckage, authorities found Candie Zito, 30, and her 26-year-old cousin Corey Zito, the Dubois County Herald newspaper reported at the time.
“Corey was wanted in other jurisdictions for various crimes that he had committed in those states,” Palmer told producers.
The Zito cousins’ injuries were so severe they had to be airlifted to a hospital an hour away. Corey would remain in a coma for months.
Though the car had been totaled, a search of the vehicle found blood in the trunk.
"We were able to match that through DNA to Anthony Gibson,” prosecutor Jeff Bradley told producers.
Candie’s cell phone contained text messages with Gibson on the night he disappeared. She asked him to bring her a pizza. He asked for nude pictures and sex. GPS data placed her near the location where Gibson’s body was found later that night.
Photographs on her phone showed the Zito cousins brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle. Those weren’t the only photographs detectives took notice of.
“We discover that there are several pictures that possibly implicate that she and her cousin are maybe involved in a romantic relationship with each other," Palmer stated.
In August 2015, Palmer traveled to an Indiana jail to speak with Candie. In a videotaped interview obtained by “Snapped,” she claims Gibson came to her house on the night of July 2 and became “aggressive towards me, sexually.”
Candie claimed Corey heard what was going on and confronted Gibson. She said she hid in her tent and heard a gunshot. When she came out, she said Gibson was gone and she assumed her cousin took him to a hospital.
“Nobody’s going to mess with Bonnie without Clyde come and handle it,” Candie told Palmer, tacitly acknowledging her possible love affair with her own cousin.
A former cellmate of Candie's subsequently contacted detectives to say that Candie had admitted to shooting Gibson during a robbery and helping dispose of his body.
“I guess they were going to have sex but her cousin was there hiding waiting for the guy to get there so they could rob him ... for the drugs and the money that he had,” the woman is heard telling detectives in recordings obtained by “Snapped.”
According to the woman, Candie’s only concern was that if her cousin woke up from his coma, their stories wouldn’t match. “She hopes he doesn’t live through this,” she added.
In September 2015, Corey Zito regained consciousness. When questioned by police, it became apparent he had suffered brain damage and had no recollection of the events of the summer.
In February 2016, Candie Zito and Corey Zito were formally indicted on murder charges in the death of Anthony Gibson, Birmingham NBC-affilate WVTM reported at the time. Before they could go to trial, Candie and Corey Zito agreed to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence. Their earliest possible release date is 2035, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections.
For more on this case and others like it, watch "Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.