Ricardo Muscolino was found guilty late Thursday evening of second-degree murder in the death of his wife in their Fallston home on Aug. 31, 2016.
After deliberating more than five hours, the eight-woman, four-man Harford County Circuit Court jury returned a not-guilty verdict on the first-degree murder charge, but guilty on second-degree murder and use of a handgun in a felony, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Emma Goerlich, who prosecuted the case with Deputy State’s Attorney Diana Brooks.
After the verdict was announced, Muscolino, 55, who is facing up to 50 years in jail, was taken into police custody, Goerlich said.
“We are pleased,” she said in a text message.
The verdict wrapped up the trial before Judge Yolanda Curtin.
In the time Muscolino was pointing a gun at his wife, he made a decision to kill her on Aug. 31, 2016, Brooks told the jury Thursday.
He could have changed his mind, but he didn’t, Brooks said..
“When Lara Muscolino said ‘Don’t point that at me,’ that was when he knew, or should have known, to put the gun down,” Brooks told the jury. “But he kept pointing it at her even when she told him not to.”
Defense lawyer Kenneth Ravenell had argued that the state can’t prove what happened in that bedroom.
The courtroom proceedings lasted less than 10 minutes after the jury returned shortly after 8:50 p.m. Thursday.
Judge Curtin thanked the jurors for their service, and she asked prosecutors if they wanted to proceed with sentencing immediately.
Brooks declined, telling the judge the state needs time before presenting its case for sentencing. She asked that Muscolino be remanded to the custody of law enforcement.
Ravenell objected, saying Muscolino has been on electronic home monitoring and complied with the conditions of his release.
Ravenell said there is “no reason why he wouldn’t appear” for further court proceedings.
Curtin ordered Muscolino’s pretrial release revoked, considering the severity of the crimes of which he had just been convicted.
The defendant, who was wearing a dark gray suit, stood as two Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies handcuffed him and led him out of the courtroom.
Lara Muscolino’s sister, Tanya Crockett, of Anne Arundel County, and her 18-year-old niece, Zoe, were among the small group of spectators in the courtroom. They tearfully embraced Brooks and Goerlich.
The Crocketts also hugged and thanked several jurors outside the courtroom.
A few of the jurors were in tears as they talked with Muscolino’s other defense attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., of Baltimore, about how they reached a verdict.
They cited the challenges to the state’s case that he had presented during the trial, with one woman telling Murphy, “you gave us a lot to think about.”
At the end, it came down to the “five shots” Muscolino was accused of firing that killed his wife, according to the jurors.
“I appreciate your service,” Murphy told the group.
Tanya Crockett said she was not surprised by the jury’s findings.
“I’m not surprised, because they don’t know [Muscolino] like we know him,” she said.
“And that’s OK,” Zoe Crockett, her daughter, added.
Tanya said, when she heard her sister had been killed, her first thought was that “Ricardo had something to do with it.”
She and her daughter described a history of mistreatment by Muscolino toward his wife and their children.
“We understand that the jury could only make their decision based on the information they were given,” Crockett said.
Before that, they know, the lawyer said: Ricardo Muscolino found out from his children that his wife was having an affair. He drove one daughter to a store, he talked with both them and went to Starbucks with another daughter. On a “nanny-cam” recording played during the trial, jurors could see his movements in his house when he let the dog out, got a drink and went upstairs and entered the master bedroom.
“Then we don’t know after that,” Ravenell said. “That the state suggests we know unequivocally what occurred, you know that is not true.”
The couple didn’t have the “best marriage,” Brooks said.
Lara Muscolino was having an affair, “that’s not a good thing,” Brooks said, but no matter what was going on, “nothing justifies what happened to Lara Muscolino and how she was tortured.”
“He wanted her to be afraid, to suffer, to terrorize her. He wanted her to pay,” Brooks said.
She talked about the trajectory of the bullets as they hit Lara Muscolino. One hit her arm and went up to her chin, suggesting she was in a defensive position.
“Because Mrs. Muscolino saw those gunshots coming,” Brooks said. “Either he told her or she just knew, because he’d been pointing the gun at her. All this was his way for making her pay and torturing her.”
If he was the peaceful, non-violent man the defense portrayed him to be, why did he even flee the house, Brooks asked. When he called 911, why didn’t he tell them what happened?
“After he shoots his wife, he leaves her, still alive, in that house, with his daughters,” Brooks said. “He leaves her dying for her children to find. That’s how self-centered he was and only thinking about himself when he made that 911 call.”
Brooks addressed the defense argument that no one knows what happened inside the couple’s bedroom.
“But we do. One is shot dead and the other comes out alive,” she said.
No one could hear what happened, Brooks said.
“But we did. We did hear some of what happened. From the time he went into the bedroom until police arrived — no one went in the bedroom,” she said. “There is no question who shot Lara Muscolino, no question whatsoever.”
Brooks showed the portion of the video from the surveillance camera in the house from the time Muscolino goes into the bedroom until he leaves the house.
Seconds after the shots are fired, he leaves the bedroom, goes downstairs and out of the house.
“Did he stop to see how she was doing, try her pulse?” Brooks asked. “If it was anything but an intentional killing, why would he even leave the house? Something happened to make him not care. We know what it was – it was the affair.”
If Lara Muscolino had done something to prompt her husband to shoot her, Muscolino never spoke of it, Brooks said.
He could have told police he was trying to defend himself when the shots were fired, could have mentioned it in the recorded conversations from the jail with his friend.
“Instead he said, ‘I did everything for her. Everything. Everything,’” Brooks said. “This is somebody who was angry, somebody who wanted to get back at his wife and that’s somebody who murdered his wife. I am confident you will do the right thing for Lara. I am confident you will find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder.”
Ravenell told the jury it’s in their hands to do justice.
“That’s what I ask you to do. Not to be swayed by emotion, not to be swayed by anything other than the law and evidence,” Ravenell said. “If you do that I am convinced you can only reach one verdict.”
There are many things the state doesn’t know yet tried to tell the jurors were fact, Ravenell said.
Like that Lara Muscolino was sleeping when her husband came into the room.
“Who testifies she was sleeping? No one,” he said.
For them to say Muscolino pulled out a gun – “where’s the evidence he pulled it out? From where,” he posed to the jury.
Look at Muscolino’s character, Ravenell said. He’s a peaceful man who doesn’t have a violent history. That’s the testimony of two of his daughters, Vivian, 16, and Shelby, 15.
The state has to prove intent, he said, arguing it did not.
Muscolino didn’t rush home on hearing of the affair. He wasn’t angry, Ravenell said. The jurors could see on the video his movements when he got home shortly before 11 p.m. the night of the murder were “lackadaisical.”
“There’s nothing to show you he’s an angry man,” Ravenell said.
The Aegis: Top stories
“We know something happened that caused this man to go from the person we know he was before he goes into the bedroom, [to change] into a violent person,” he said, “but we don’t know what they are, because the state has not proved them.”
He asked the jurors to be fair, to do justice, to require justice, to demand justice,” he said. “You’re the ones to determine what justice is.”
In her rebuttal argument to the defense, Goerlich said the things Ravenell spoke about “don’t matter.”
That the dog was lying in Lara Muscolino’s blood, that a shell casing was found in the bed, that the fifth casing and video surveillance weren’t found until the house was searched a second time on Sept. 9, 2016, that they didn’t find a third gun, if Lara Muscolino was awake or sleeping when her husband walked in.
Those things don’t matter, Goerlich said.
“You have everything you need. He waited. He had the time. To ensure Lara wouldn’t have an affair again,” she said.
For news of the verdict, follow www.theaegis.com.