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    DNA leads to arrest in 1990 rape-slaying

    He avoided investigators and refused to provide saliva or blood. Last year, detectives hit pay dirt through his garbage.

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


    LARGO -- A slick combination of computerized detective work and old-fashioned sleuthing helped Pinellas sheriff's investigators make an arrest in a brutal murder-rape case that remained unsolved for more than 11 years.

    Detectives on Wednesday morning arrested Tampa shoe salesman Brian Calzacorto, 37, on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the 1990 slaying of 23-year-old Laurie Colannino. Detectives say Calzacorto raped Colannino, stabbed her 20 times in the chest and neck, and cut her throat.

    The arrest caps more than a decade of investigative work that uncovered a series of strange twists: Calzacorto has a twin brother with matching DNA, and authorities in Pennsylvania who were investigating the murder of the twins' father had suspicions about the brothers.

    "This finally brings to a close a long, ongoing cold case," sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said of the arrest. "It was a long road."

    Colannino was attacked Jan. 2, 1990, in her residence at Bay Pointe Apartments, 2770 Roosevelt Blvd. A friend was talking to her on the phone when Colannino appeared to become startled by something. The friend heard a voice in the background, then grew suspicious when the call was disconnected and she didn't call back.

    The friend drove to Colannino's apartment and found her face-down and bloody on her bedroom floor. Calzacorto lived in the same apartment complex, only about 100 yards away from Colannino's unit.

    Calzacorto wasn't initially suspected in the case. When detectives reopened the investigation in 1994, they started snooping around the complex, where he still lived. Calzacorto mysteriously disappeared, abandoning his apartment. Investigators left business cards on his door, but he never called.

    "He started dodging them," said Detective Lt. Steve Shipman.

    His twin brother, Alfred Calzacorto Jr., reported him missing in July 1994. Knowing he had DNA that was identical to his brother, detectives asked Alfred Calzacorto Jr. to provide a blood or saliva sample.

    That way, investigators told him, if a body turned up and it was suspected of being his brother's, they could determine for sure if it was his. Detectives also wanted to compare his DNA to DNA taken from semen found on Colannino's body.

    But Alfred Calzacorto refused to provide a sample.

    Brian Calzacorto was missing until September 1994, when he was arrested on a grand theft charge in Clearwater.

    Homicide investigators interviewed him, but he refused to provide saliva or blood. More than 170 other males who knew or lived near Colannino had been eliminated as suspects through the DNA technology.

    Then there was the fact that Brian Calzacorto was a suspect in the 1986 murder of his police officer father.

    The Calzacorto family made headlines more than a decade ago when the twins' father, a 60-year-old police officer, was murdered.

    On Oct. 27, 1986, Alfred Calzacorto Sr. was found shot in his bed in Donora, Penn. Authorities said he was killed with his off-duty revolver, but the weapon was never found.

    The family initially refused to cooperate with authorities and repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a coroner's inquest into the father's death.

    At the time, Pennsylvania authorities said Brian Calzacorto, who had fled to Florida immediately after his father's slaying, was a suspect, but they did not charge him. Alfred Calzacorto Jr. told police that his brother had withdrawn $200 from the bank the day their father died and left town that night.

    Alfred Calzacorto Jr. was charged with hindering an investigation and tampering with evidence. The disposition of those charges could not be learned Wednesday.

    The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said the Calzacorto murder remains unsolved. Alfred Calzacorto Jr. also moved to Florida. Reached at his Tampa home, he said he had been advised not to comment on his brother's arrest.

    Despite the circumstances surrounding Brian Calzacorto, investigators couldn't pin anything on him and the case again fell out of the limelight.

    But Homicide Sgt. Michael Ring resurrected it in August.

    This time, investigators staked out Brian Calzacorto's Tampa residence at Altamonte Apartments, 8730 N Himes Ave. Detectives watched him take two bags of trash to a Dumpster, then seized them, hoping something inside might contain his DNA.

    They hit the jackpot with a protective screen from an electric razor and several Marlboro cigarettes. A month later, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab compared the DNA from the screen and the cigarettes to the semen taken off Colannino's body.

    It was a match.

    Detectives also seized Alfred Calzacorto's trash and found a toothbrush and disposable razors inside. That DNA also matched the DNA found in Colannino's body.

    The chance of the DNA matching another white male is one in 1.49-quintillion, according to arrest reports.

    Detectives then determined that Alfred Calzacorto worked at a Tampa credit union at the time of Colannino's slaying. They checked with his supervisor, who did not remember specifically if he missed work that day, but said he rarely did miss work.

    Figuring Brian Calzacorto was their man, they obtained a signed warrant from a judge on Tuesday. Sheriff's investigators and FDLE agents arrested him in Tampa Wednesday morning without incident. He invoked his right to remain silent. They also talked with his twin brother, who was cooperative and denied any involvement in the homicide.

    "It was just a lot of good old-fashioned, shoe-leather detective work over a number of years," Pasha said. "Along with the help of the FDLE lab."

    - Times staff writer Deborah O'Neil and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Information from the Philadelphia Inquirer was used in this report.

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