Ricardo Muscolino, the Fallston man convicted in November of killing his wife in August 2016, was given the maximum sentence Friday of 50 years in prison.
In issuing her sentence, Harford County Circuit Court Judge Yolanda Curtin told Muscolino, 56, of the 2300 block of Windswept Court, that he showed “no mercy” when he fatally shot Lara Crockett Muscolino, who was 48, four times in the bedroom of their home in 2016.
“It’s disturbing to the court that a person who lived an otherwise law-abiding life committed a heinous crime with his daughters in the home, all because Mrs. Muscolino had an affair,” Curtin said.
Muscolino was sentenced to the maximum 30 years on the second-degree murder conviction and the maximum 20 years on the use of a firearm in commission of a felony, to be served consecutively. He must serve at least 50 percent of the time before he is eligible for release, Curtin said.
Muscolino, who was wearing the gray striped jail suit with “H.C.D.C. inmate” on the back and shackled at his wrists and ankles, declined the judge’s offer to speak during the sentencing held in the courthouse in Bel Air because of appeals in the case, but his defense lawyer, William Murphy Jr., said he would speak for him.
“He is extraordinarily sad and remorseful for what he did,” Murphy said. “He’s had a chance to pray and he’s extraordinarily sad about the consequences of that night.”
Muscolino was found guilty Nov. 2 by a Harford County jury of fatally shooting his wife on Aug. 31, 2016, hours after finding out from his oldest daughter that his wife was having an affair, according to testimony presented at his trial.
Assistant State’s Attorney Emma Goerlich said she was very pleased with the sentence.
“It was exactly what we asked for and I think it’s justice,” Goerlich said. “I do think it’s justice for Lara. That’s why I brought up the nanny-cam during sentencing because I think it’s important that she be allowed to speak as well.”
Goerlich reminded the judge of Lara Muscolino’s last words: “Stop it, don’t point that at me” and “Stop it, Ricardo,” before yelling for her oldest daughter, “Vivian!” before Muscolino fired the gun five times, hitting her four.
‘My world is crumbling...’
In speaking to the court, Vivian Muscolino said “murderer” is only one way to speak of her father, and it’s based on just one action by him.
“He’s an immigrant, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a nurse. Most important, he’s my dad,” Vivian, 16, said through tears.
He helped with her homework, taught her about the stock market and how to play chess.
“You do have a voice and I hope it will continue to be heard,” Curtin said. “I’m truly sorry for your loss and I hope you, Kylie and Shelby [the other Muscolino daughters] surround yourself with people who love you, who care for you and will guide you through a difficult time.”
During the two-hour sentencing hearing, Lara Muscolino’s father, Darryl Crockett, and sister, Tanya Crockett, also addressed the judge. So did Ricardo Muscolino’s neighbor, J.L. Carter.
Carter, a preacher of the non-denominational Ark Church in Baltimore, said Muscolino’s actions the night of Aug. 31, 2016 were out of character.
The two had known each other for about 10 years and they spoke often, about politics, the neighborhood, their families.
“That incident does not characterize the person I know,” Carter told the court.
‘Open wound,’ never to heal
Darryl Crockett said he received a card from Lara, his oldest daughter, two weeks before his 79th birthday. It was signed from “the kid most like you,” he told Curtin, and he still sees the card every day, because he kept it.
Lara died two days before his 79th birthday and he’s been trying to come to terms with it, but can’t, he told Curtin.
“She was the daughter I was depending on to bury me, instead, I was the one burying her. No man should have to bury his child,” Crockett said. “They say time heals all, but that just is not true. I have a wound that will never scar over. I have a wound that is open and will remain that way as long as I live.”
Tanya Crockett told the judge she is forever changed by the murder of her sister. She used to be the outgoing, happy person who would talk to anybody. Now she seldom speaks to anyone because she doesn’t know whom to trust.
It was “disgusting and heartbreaking” to have to sit in the courtroom during the two-week trial, she said, and hear how her brother-in-law “ran like a coward” and left her sister in the house to die.
“My sister died alone in the hospital with no one to hold her hand, no family,” Tanya Crockett, who is a nurse, said. “I will never get past that.”
She said Muscolino showed no remorse.
“No remorse for taking her sister, no remorse for taking my parents’ daughter away, no remorse that she’ll never see her girls finish school, college, see her girls marry or have children,” she said. “He has no remorse that the girls won’t have their mother… to be the best friends they were.”
After Lara’s death, Tanya Crockett said, her mother’s health began to decline, and she died six months after Lara.
“It’s been a lonely time, things will never be the same,” she said. “We will always be mourning who we were before all this happened. We’ve all been given a life sentence in some way, and I hope you give him the maximum sentence.”
Goerlich told Curtin that Muscolino’s actions were vicious and heinous and deserved the maximum sentence for committing “the ultimate crime.”
“Ricardo Muscolino was the offender in this violent, violent act. For two minutes she was staring into a 9 millimeter handgun before he pulled the trigger five times, hitting her four,” Goerlich said. “It was not an accident the first time, it was not an accident the second time, it was not an accident the third time, fourth time, fifth time. He knew exactly what he was doing and knew the consequences of his action.”
He was angry at his wife for having an affair, the prosecutor said.
“He didn’t control his wife, except when it came to her affair,” she said. “How dare she, how dare she step out on me.”
The sentence imposed must have value, she told the judge.
“The value is Lara’s life, the value is the harm done to the family,” she said.
In asking for a minimum sentence, Murphy, the defense attorney, asked Curtin to look beyond the emotions of the case, to look at the “heartland.”
Muscolino is not the monster he has been portrayed to be, he said, and his actions the night of Aug. 31, 2016 were “abnormal,” Murphy said.
“He led a life of peace. He was a non-violent man who worked hard, lived the American dream,” he said.
The incident Aug. 31 “was between him and her. She was a victim of his anger. He didn’t have any intent other than what he did to Lara Muscolino,” Murphy said. “He reacted to what he learned from his own child about his own wife. It was not cold blooded.”
Otherwise, Muscolino was a peaceful man.
“I think we can all agree, but for that, we would not be here,” Murphy said.
The maximum sentence of 50 years would be equal to a life sentence for Muscolino, who is 56, he said.
“A 15-year sentence satisfies the requirements of justice,” Murphy said. “I’m asking for that because I believe that’s fair.”
The wrong choice
Sentencing is the most difficult part of a case, the judge said. It is not routine and it’s not ordinary. She is in a position to see and hear all the evidence that led to Muscolino killing his wife.
“Mr. Muscolino, you have been described as a kind man, a peaceful man, who made a success out of his life,” Curtin told the defendant
Killing his wife was a direct correlation to finding out his wife had an affair, she said.
“You have to consider, you had so many opportunities to take different steps and to even remedy the violent acts you committed on Mrs. Muscolino, but you chose not to,” Curtin said.
He didn’t think about his three young daughters in the house, about leaving his wife bleeding in the bedroom, leaving his daughters “to deal with the chaos, the confusion and life with no parents to give comfort,” the judge continued.
As a critical care nurse, Muscolino defied his training, she said.
“Even after he shot Mrs. Muscolino, you had the training and ability to rectify the situation,” she said. “You chose not to.”
“You shot Mrs. Muscolino, leaving her there to die and you walked out of the house, not a care for what happened next,” Curtin said.
Murphy had little comment after the sentencing hearing, other than to say an appeal will be filed.