Angry over wife's affair, state says Fallston man shot, killed her

Ricardo Muscolino was angry his wife cheated on him — that's why he shot and killed her on Aug. 31, 2016.

That's what Assistant State's Attorney Emma Goerlich told the 12 members of the jury hearing the case against Muscolino in Harford County Circuit Court on Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder and use of a handgun in a violent crime. Opening arguments in the trial before Judge Yolanda Curtin, which could take up to two weeks, began Wednesday morning.

Kenneth Ravenell, part of Muscolino's defense team of four lawyers, said there's another side to the story.

"The incident Aug. 31, 2016 is more than just about that crime. It's about the affair Lara Muscolino was having," Ravenell said. "The case is about how we got there and what else happened."

He talked about a crime scene contaminated by the family dog, poor investigation by police, a missing handgun and the lack of a violent history in Muscolino, all of which should be enough to give the jury reasonable doubt that he killed his wife.

"The state must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They are required to prove the things they say, not speculate," Ravenell said. "If you require proof and not speculation, they still will not prove to you the crimes charged."

Harford County Sheriff's Office deputies who responded to the crime scene and two of the Muscolinos' daughters, Vivian and Shelby, testified Thursday morning. The medical examiner was expected to take the stand Wednesday afternoon. Goerlich said the state could call its last witness Monday.

The last word Lara Muscolino said before her husband shot her Aug. 31, 2016 was her daughter's name, Vivian, Goerlich told the jury.

Lara Muscolino screamed the name of her oldest daughter just as her husband, Ricardo Muscolino, 58, fired five shots at her as she lay in their bed in their Fallston home, Goerlich said. Ricardo Muscolino had learned hours earlier his wife was having an affair, she said.

"Ricardo Muscolino just couldn't take that she was having an affair, that she was cheating on him, so he killed her," Goerlich said. "That seems like a tough price to pay for a brief affair she had."

After he shot his wife, Goerlich said, Muscolino left her alone "to die in their bed," while their three children were sleeping down the hall.

'Don't point that at me'

On the afternoon of Aug. 31, 2016, Ricardo Muscolino found out from his daughters Vivian and Shelby, 15 and 14 at the time, that his 48-year-old wife was having an affair. Vivian, with access to her mother's computer, had found messages on Facebook between her mother and another man.

Muscolino and daughter Vivian went to Starbucks in White Marsh, where they talked about Lara Muscolino's affair and Muscolino "pored over" her Facebook messages, Goerlich said.

Muscolino returned to the family's home in the 2300 block of Windswept Court in Fallston shortly after 11 p.m. He let the dog out, locked the doors downstairs, turned off the lights and went upstairs to his bedroom, where his wife was sleeping, Goerlich said.

He went in, closed the door and tried to have a conversation with his wife about her infidelity.

"He pulls out a 9mm Glock and points it at her. But he doesn't fire right away. He's pointing it at her, torturing her, asking her about her affair," Goerlich said, telling the jury about a video they'll watch and hear from the nanny-cam Lara Muscolino had in the house.

Lara Muscolino is heard pleading with her husband.

"'Stop it. Don't point that at me.' A few seconds later, 'Stop it Ricardo,'" Goerlich said.

After two to three more minutes, the jurors will hear Lara Muscolino's yell "Vivian," then five shots ring out and then screaming, she said.

"She's screaming for her life," because she's just been shot by her husband, Goerlich said the jury.

Police said five shots were fired, four of them hit Lara Muscolino, she said. The gun was found in the hamper in the bedroom under a pillow.

After shooting his wife, Muscolino leaves the bedroom, walks downstairs and out of the house. He calls 911 to tell police to go to the house, but he doesn't tell them why, Goerlich said.

Then he goes to the Harford County Sheriff's Office Northern Precinct, where he turns himself in.

Lara Muscolino was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital in Baltimore, where she died eight hours after being shot, Goerlich said.

Vivian Muscolino also called 911, Goerlich said, and said she just heard gunshots in her house and that her dad "just found out my mom was cheating on him," she said.

"Her first thought was that her dad shot her mom," Goerlich said.

It was a "step-by-step determined action. He decided to make his wife pay," she said. "At the end, I hope you will find him guilty of murder."

Muscolino's defense

While the prosecutors painted Muscolino as a calculated, determined man intent on killing his wife, Muscolino has no history of violence, Ravenell said.

He came to the United States when he was 16 and established several businesses.

"He worked hard, took care of his family," Ravenell said. "He's a multi-millionaire."

The couple married in 1999 and had three kids, he said, describing Muscolino as a loving and caring father.

"Nothing in his history would lead you to believe he would in cold blood kill her over adultery," Ravenell said.

There is no question that Lara Muscolino was shot and killed — "that's not in dispute" — but the state's attorney left out several things in her opening argument, Ravenell said.

Like the fact that Lara Muscolino did not go with her husband and three daughters on their recent trip to their house in Florida. Instead, an avid believer of ghosts and founder of Maryland Ghost Trackers, she went ghost-hunting and had been on several such trips with other men.

But Muscolino wasn't a controlling man, Lara Muscolino wasn't in an abusive relationship, he said, and she was a very independent woman.

So when the prosecutors suggest Muscolino killed his wife out of anger, his actions show differently. He didn't storm home, run up the stairs to confront his wife, Ravenell said. He walked inside, let the dog out, turned off lights and locked doors, then got a glass of water and went upstairs.

When he was with his daughter at Starbucks, Muscolino told her that he would talk to his wife the next day and contact a lawyer and get a divorce, Ravenell said.

"That was his mindset on Aug. 31, 2016," he said.

The state's attorney also left out that Lara Muscolino had cheated on her husband previously, and the couple separated in 2012. And in 1998, before they were married, Muscolino sued his soon-to-be-wife in civil court over a money dispute.

When they were having problems, "they handled it through the courts," Ravenell said.

The defense will also show that if anyone should have been fearful in the relationship, it was Muscolino of his wife, "because in 1999, she pulled a handgun on him," Ravenell said.

The house wasn't properly secured after detectives' initial investigation, which compromised the crime scene, he said. More than two dozen police officers were in the house and the fifth shell casing was found until more than a week after the shooting, the same time police recovered the video cameras they missed the first time. The shell casing, he said, was found under the bed where investigators had found an empty gun box.

"You'll find that you can't trust the police investigation," Ravenell said.

He asked the jury to listen to the facts and "you determine what the evidence really shows."

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