PALM HARBOR, Fla. — It’s a storyline worthy of a soap opera.
A Florida man dating two sisters simultaneously went to sheriff’s deputies last month with a recording of one of the sisters confessing that the siblings killed their 85-year-old father in 2015, “euthanizing” him by stuffing a rag down his throat, pinching his nose shut and holding his arms down until he died.
Mary Beth Tomaselli, 63, and Linda Ann Roberts, 61, both of Palm Harbor, are each charged with first-degree murder in the March 6, 2015, death of Anthony Tomaselli, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. They were arrested Tuesday, one day shy of the fourth anniversary of their father's slaying.
Pinellas County officials said paramedics and deputies responded just before 6 a.m. March 6, 2015, to a report of a death at 530 Natingham Close in Palm Harbor. The paramedics attempted CPR but were unsuccessful in reviving Anthony Tomaselli.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
that Tomaselli suffered from cancer and dementia.
"The story they told when deputies responded back in 2015 was that they had taken their dad for a ride to the beach on the previous evening," Gualtieri said. "He came back and laid down on the couch and he went to sleep."
Roberts and Mary Beth Tomaselli told investigators when they awoke the next morning, they found their father not breathing. They said they attempted CPR and called 911, authorities said.
Paramedics pronounced Anthony Tomaselli dead at the scene.
"There were no signs of foul play, no signs of criminal activity, nothing to indicate anything other than Anthony's death was of natural causes given his advanced age and his medical condition," Gualtieri said.
It wasn’t until Feb. 13 that Sheriff’s Office officials became suspicious of Anthony Tomaselli’s death.
, that was the day that a man called the office’s robbery/homicide unit and said he had a recording of Roberts confessing that she killed her father in 2015.
the man told investigators he met Mary Beth Tomaselli in a bar last August and developed a friendship that became sexual. Tomaselli subsequently introduced the man to her sister, who also began a sexual relationship with him, despite having a husband.
"The male stated that he had noticed some, as he described it, quote, 'odd behavior' by Linda and that it was obvious to him that something was troubling her," Gualtieri said.
Roberts asked the man to come to her home on Feb. 12 and, when he got there, she told him that she and her sister had “euthanized” their father four years before, Gualtieri said.
"Because of Linda's statements, the male subject took out his cellphone and began to videotape and audiotape Linda's statements to him," the sheriff said. "Linda gave very specific details about how she and Mary Beth killed their father."
The man called the authorities the following day.
He provided a copy of the video and audio of Roberts’ alleged confession, and Sheriff’s Office detectives launched an investigation. With the man’s cooperation, detectives were able to get additional recorded statements about the slaying from both sisters.
The sisters described the crime as premeditated, Gualtieri said. The sisters said they "euthanized" their father because he allegedly had just a few months to live but would not move into an assisted living facility.
Watch the news conference with Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri below.
Their first attempt involved alcohol and an abundance of sleeping pills.
"However, Mary Beth put too much alcohol in the mixture," Gualtieri said. "It diluted it, so the sleeping pills were not effective."
When the spiked drink did not kill their father, the women moved on to Plan B.
"Their father was laying on the couch in the residence," Gualtieri said. "He had labored breathing after they gave him this concoction of sleeping pills and alcohol. He was moving around, and it appeared to them that he was not going to die from what they gave him."
Roberts then put a pillow over their father’s face to suffocate him, the sheriff said.
"When that didn't work, Linda took a rag and stuffed the rag down his throat and Mary Beth pinched his nose and held his arms until he stopped breathing and died," Gualtieri said.
Arrest affidavits filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court indicate it was a washcloth Roberts shoved into their father's mouth. See Roberts' affidavit below.
"Mary Beth's (adult) daughter, Lauren, was in the home on the night of March 5," Gualtieri said. "Mary Beth stated that she gave her daughter Lauren sleeping pills to knock her out, so she would not be awake to see them kill her grandfather."
The sisters then “faked” finding their father dead the following morning and staged giving him CPR and calling 911.
"Mary Beth further described how it was, in her words, quote, 'weird' after she killed her father because Anthony still had a pulse, due to having a pacemaker, despite being dead," Gualtieri said.
The man who reported the sisters’ alleged killing of their father gave detectives a chilling coda to the story in another recording made last week.
"Linda told that male that her husband had recently been arrested for domestic violence, that their assets had recently been put in her name and that she wanted her husband dead, too," Gualtieri said.
After Anthony Tomaselli’s death, the sisters sold his house for $120,000 and split the proceeds with their brother, who Gualtieri said was not involved in the slaying.
Both women admitted to what they allegedly did upon questioning by detectives, Gualtieri said.
The sheriff told reporters the sisters could have easily gotten away with killing their father -- and had for nearly four years.
"If they hadn't run their mouths and confessed to this guy who she met in a bar last August or September, yeah. In some respects, as we sometimes call these things, it was the 'perfect murder," Gualtieri said. "There was absolutely no sign of struggle, no sign of foul play. He had cancer, he had dementia, he was seriously ill.
The sheriff said he believes Roberts’ own guilt led to the sisters’ downfall.
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