James Scandirito Jr., who is on trial for the March 2018 murder of his father James Scandirito Sr., took the stand on Tuesday in his own defense in a Florida courtroom. Scandirito is accused of murdering his father, then chopping up his body and disposing of it. He doesn’t deny cutting up his father, but he insists he didn’t kill him. Scandirito claims he and his dad were doing drugs when Senior passed out and died, and then he disposed of the body in a panic.
Scandirito first described the setup he had where he said they were doing drugs.
“When we do cocaine, we have a little bit of a … like a hors d’oeuvres server kind of a dish,” he said. “So that’s what I had set up on that table there.”
According to him, his dad wasn’t interested in doing cocaine at that point, and Scandirito left the room.
He came back later that night, and his father was unresponsive.
“I don’t see him in the chair, and as I come around I see him, he’s on the floor kind of on his side between the table and his chair kind of with his head rested against the couch,” he told the court. “And I yelled, ‘Dad are you okay?’ And no response. I thought maybe he just passed out or something so I kinda grab him and shake him a little bit, and nothing.”
Scandirito said he checked his pulse and there was none. Next, he said, he rolled him over and pushed on his chest, but again, there was no response. He also recalled that his father’s body temperature felt lower than normal. He also noticed that drugs were all over the place.
“He had knocked over all of the cocaine that was on the cake server, the appetizer server,” he said. “That was on the floor, it was on the couch, it was on him. He was just kind of laying in it.”
“My first reaction was that he might have done a line of cocaine and just passed out onto the table. I couldn’t imagine anything else that happened that caused that,” he said.
He later learned that there was no cocaine in his father’s system, which he said was a surprise.
At that point, he believed he had to clear the area. Scandirito said that he was paranoid due to drug use, which is why he reacted the way he did.
“My first reaction was, oh no, I’m gonna get in trouble because he died snorting my cocaine,” he said. “My next thought was I gotta clean up all of this cocaine … and honestly I should have called 911 but I didn’t want to face them in my current state.”
The problem, he said, was that his father was too big for him to move to allow him to clean up.
“I thought I needed to find a way to move him out, either put him into his bed or just move him enough so I could clean up. So I went out into the garage,” he said, which was where he remembered there being a dolly.
When he didn’t find one, he drove to a Walmart with the intention of buying one. He said he didn’t find anything there that would help, so he went to Home Depot where he bought one. Video showed him also carrying a gas can. He explained the gas can by saying that if he ever had to explain the dolly, he could say he needed it to move his father’s power washer, which took gas.
He recognized that this may not have been the most sensical rationale.
Upon acquiring the dolly, he said, he planned on rolling his father out and putting him in his bed. He also said he wanted to make sure there were no drugs or drug paraphernalia visible in the house. Scandirito said he then realized that if he moved his father into bed, it wouldn’t look natural because the body had already stiffened. If he moved the body back into a more natural position, he worried, investigators would have noticed.
Eventually, he realized, “that I’m gonna have to dismember my dad in order to move him out of the house.”
Scandirito explained to the court how he went about doing that.
“I had laid a clear tarp down,” he said, “and I had another tarp that went over the top of the dolly and the plastic tarp that was underneath the dolly.”
He said he used a hand saw to cut through the body under the top tarp. When the job was done, he said, “I take a garbage bag and I kind of cover the part that is being dismembered, so when the arm, let’s say, is finally dismembered, it falls into the garbage bag.”
He said he then took the garbage bags and “eventually ended up putting them into three suitcases.”
When he was done, he said, he folded the tarps, put them into a garbage bag, and put them in a suitcase. After that, there wasn’t much cleanup left to do, as there wasn’t much blood on the floor, he said.
He said he felt like it took all night, and that he “would take frequent breaks, go out through the garage door … smoke cigarettes and just wish that this nightmare wasn’t happening.”
[Image via Law & Crime Network screengrab]