By Bob Gilmartin, Dateline Producer
I first met Eddie Locascio Jr. at the law office of a longtime friend of mine, Michael Band. Michael, a former top Miami prosecutor, is now a successful private attorney who was hired to help steer Eddie and his aunt, Ursula Silveira, through the maze of the criminal justice system. Eddie struck me immediately as a brilliant young man. Looking in his eyes you could almost see his brain tracking the information minutes ahead of where you were in the conversation.
I first formally met his father, Ed Locascio Sr., in court during a break in the trial. We had seen each other many times in court before, but never spoke. He knew who I was from conversations with his brother, Al, and his sister, who I had spoken with in the hall. But the opportunity had never arisen to go speak with him. With the permission of a court officer, I approached him and introduced myself. Initially, there was some unease on my part about seeming too chummy with the defendant in a first-degree murder case -- especially in front of the victim's family.
But in this case, everyone in the courtroom seemed to be a family member of the victim, Silvia Locascio, either through marriage or through blood. As usual, the courtroom was divided between the defendant's family and the victim's -- so Ed's immediate family was on one side of the spectator aisle and Silvia's immediate family was on the other.
Every day, Eddie Jr., Silvia's mother, her sister, Ursula, and cousins came to court and listened to often gruesome testimony. On the other side of the aisle, behind Ed Sr., was his brother, sister, Ed's girlfriend and his friends.
At this point in the trial, Ed Locascio was innocent until proven guilty. His claim is that he lost his wife to a mad killer (his brother, according to another jury who convicted brother Michael). His son's claim, and that of the prosecutor, was that Ed Sr. was responsible for the murder after putting his brother, Michael, up to the job. As far as Eddie Jr. was concerned, he had long since cut out the Locascio part of his DNA and wanted nothing to do with his father.
As we try to do in every case, Dateline wanted to interview with the father, Ed Locascio Sr. It was during this break in the trial, that I saw my first opportunity to ask him face to face. I was surprised to hear from his brother, Al, that he thought Ed would want to talk to us. And when I introduced myself to Ed Sr., it became quickly evident that he had a lot to say.
First impressions: Ed is a businessman, an accountant by trade, who did well with investments, especially real estate. He was soft-spoken and polite (calling me "Mr. Gilmartin"). Yet he seemed a bit agitated that his relationship with his son, he said, was being misrepresented in court. As proof of that, he showed me a folder with pictures of him and Eddie Jr. working on a humanitarian project (I believe it was Habitat for Humanity). He wanted to show that he was building some sweat equity in his relationship with his son, even pointing out how Eddie Jr. was smiling in one photo. In fact, from the photos, they seemed to be enjoying the work and each other's company.
Of course, Eddie's version of that story would be quite different. He said that he and his father rarely spent time together, much less quality time. He swore in court and in conversations outside the court that his father was abusive to him and even more so to his mother. He said that his father wouldn't pay for his college applications to Ivy League schools even though he surely would have won scholarships.
My conversation with Ed Sr. was relatively short in court, but he agreed to talk more and would talk to me after the verdict. Of course, the prosecutors -- who I know from a number of other cases in Miami over the years -- were later peppering me with questions about my conversation with Ed Sr. and what we talked about. I borrowed a term of out their book and said that it was "privileged" conversation.
Much was made of Ed Sr.'s interest in sports and coaching and that he was disappointed with his son for not being more of an athlete. Yet he too had his own physical limitations. He has severe diabetes and would often come to court having medical issues. At one point during trial, he threw up. It was one of the most tense moments in the trial when the case was going to the jury.
After the trial, I wrote him in jail but at that point, I was not able to get the interview, because his attorneys had recommended he not do it, pending his appeals. However, he later dismissed his attorneys, and agreed to meet with me.
Before our meeting, we had an hour-long conversation over the phone from his new home at Jackson Correctional Institution, about two hours west of Tallahassee in northern Florida. During our phone conversation, he kept repeating over and over how he wanted to testify but his attorneys told him not to. He said he could disprove much of the evidence against him if only given a chance.
During this conversation and a subsequent one in person at the jail, I found Ed Locascio Sr. a master at calling up fine details about the case -- probably his accountant training. However, I also found it at times impossible to get a direct answer out of him to a simple question. He would often change the subject and start referring to obscure documents from a foot-high stack of documents he brought with him for our meeting. I think if he had taken the witness stand, Gail Levine, on of the toughest prosecutors I've ever met, would certainly have tried to push his buttons during cross-examination, but she never got the chance.
When correspondent Dennis Murphy finally sat down for an interview with Ed Locascio Sr., the prisoner looked -- by his own admission -- like hell. He had lost quite a bit of weight, couldn't eat a lot of the jail food because of his diabetes, and told us that for some reason he was not allowed to use a razor to shave. Thus his scraggly beard.
Still, he was very lucid, and enthusiastic to finally be able to tell his story. He said he wanted to take the witness stand, but decided to follow the recommendation of his attorney, Bob Amsel, not to testify.
Perhaps any concerns his attorney had about him testifying were well founded. When we asked if his brother might have been involved in his wife's murder, he changed his tune several times, saying he might have been involved and then later saying there was no way he could have been involved.
He even hinted that his brother might have been involved in some sort of conspiracy, dropping the bombshell that he thought his son, Ed Jr., was involved in some way in his wife's murder. He went on to say this his son may have even killed his mother himself. Ed Jr. wouldn't even dignify his father's remarks with a response, but early on, prosecutors and detectives dismissed that possibility after conducting extensive interviews, DNA testing, and employing other investigative techniques that ruled Eddie Jr. out as a suspect.
As Dennis Murphy said to Ed Locascio Sr., people might think "how poisonous" for him to implicate his son in his mother's murder after Ed Sr. was convicted of the crime. Locascio didn't flinch. All he knew was that he, along with his brother, was a wronged man and innocent of the charges, saying someday he would be exonerated on appeal.
Meanwhile he and his brother Michael sit in two different northern Florida prisons serving out life sentences. While both escaped the death penalty for their first-degree murder convictions, unless they're successful on appeal, the only way out of prison for them is in a pine box. In Florida, a life sentence means life without the possibility of parole.
A Dateline special, "Murder in the Family," airs Friday, April 18, at 10pm ET on NBC.