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Family rages, grieves at sentencing

Daniel Wingard murdered a husband and father, Michael Altieri, in December. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.

By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 2, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- Silvana Altieri lay alone in the dark. She knew sleep would not come. Not tonight.

So she did what she has done almost every night for the past six months: She talked to Michael.

Give me strength, she asked him. Be with me, she said.

She murmured for hours until the sun rose, and then she rose, too, and fixed her blond hair, put on a sleek black suit.

And shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday, Mrs. Altieri walked into the Hernando County Courthouse and faced her husband's killer. Daniel Wingard did not turn around, but looked forward, his shaved head bobbing as he cracked his neck.

Silvana, 38, had run from him before, on a dark morning in December when Wingard knocked on the couple's door and fatally stabbed her husband, Michael, 42, as their two young daughters watched.

Mrs. Altieri ran into the street, screaming, and then returned to her bleeding husband, begging him not to die.

On Monday, she did not run, but faced Wingard, tearless, as she wore her husband's wedding ring around her neck.

Wingard, a 32-year-old carpenter, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to four consecutive terms of life in prison. He will have no chance of parole.

Michael Altieri's mother, Janette, sobbed as friends and relatives stood before Circuit Judge Richard Tombrink Jr. and spoke of their lost brother, husband and friend.

They wished the worst upon Wingard, a former neighbor of the Altieris.

"I'm looking forward to hearing how you've been killed in prison," said Altieri's younger brother, John. "You can't even look at me."

By all accounts, what Wingard destroyed on Dec. 11 was an 18-year love affair between a husband and wife, and the happiness of two girls, 8 and 12. Altieri, an auto mechanic, worked six days a week so his wife could stay at home with their two daughters, one of whom now sneaks her father's favorite cowboy boots to bed when she misses him.

When Mrs. Altieri spoke on Monday, she asked Wingard to look at her, to memorize her face, to think of it often. He smirked and lowered his head.

She told Wingard she would never forgive him.

"You are true evil. Evil," she said. "Every time you are violated in jail, you think of my daughter."

She told him she hoped he would shed 100 ounces of blood for every ounce that her husband lost.

"On Dec. 11, you had complete control of the Altieri family," she said. "Today, we have control of your life. . . . I hope you go straight to hell."

She looked Wingard in the eye.

"Before you do, may you rot in prison," she said.

Wingard looked at her and winked.

She shouted and moved toward him as Assistant State Attorney Don Scaglione placed his hand on her arm.

Mrs. Altieri blew him a kiss. "Take that with you," she said mockingly.

Wingard faced his fate alone. No family or friends sat behind him in the courtroom.

Wingard pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, sexual battery, armed burglary and kidnapping while armed. Tombrink ordered that Wingard write an apology to the Altieris and have no contact with them.

Before Wingard was taken from the courtroom, Mrs. Altieri rose, as did every sheriff's deputy in the courtroom, all ready to hold her back.

"Game's over, Wingard. You lose," Silvana yelled as he walked off in handcuffs.

Wingard agreed to file no appeals, and prosecutors said they will pursue the death penalty if he does not follow the agreement. Wingard declined to be interviewed after the hearing.

He did, however, give a statement to authorities on June 24 and said he was a recovering addict who used $600 worth of cocaine and chased Oxycontin with rum before killing Altieri. He said he was at his mother's house earlier and she got upset because he was intoxicated.

"I needed to take a walk and talk to God, you know?" he told authorities.

He walked to the house of his former girlfriend, Tonia Stinson, who lived next door to the Altieris. She was not home, and Wingard said he could not remember what happened next.

Mrs. Altieri said Wingard knocked on their door and stabbed her husband. He also dragged their daughter into the woods and assaulted her.

"None of this makes sense, man," Wingard told authorities. "I had nothing against this man. . . . I don't remember nothing of what I was thinking."

He said he had "nothing but remorse" for what happened.

After the hearing on Monday, Mrs. Altieri went to her sister's Spring Hill home, where platters of fruit and crackers, wine and beer filled the kitchen counter.

Most there said they felt hollow, that the day signified an end but brought little closure.

Mrs. Altieri said she decided not to pursue the death penalty because she wanted Wingard to suffer in prison, to sleep with one eye open, to fear for his life.

"I don't want him isolated on death row and treated like a king," she said.

She hopes her nights become easier.

"For months, I have not smelled him, heard him, seen him," she said of her husband. "I'm surrounded by my children all day and my friends carry me along. But at night, I am alone. I miss him most then. But he is with me. In my heart. He will be always."

-- Jamie Jones covers law enforcement and courts in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to jjones@sptimes.com.

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