Stepmother: Musso said he would kill grandfather

Advocate  Staff Photo by  MARK SALTZ --  Baton Rouge Police Department Detectives Brett Magee, left, and Brian Watson, right, escort Dustin Musso, center,  to a vehicle for transport in 2009.
Advocate Staff Photo by MARK SALTZ -- Baton Rouge Police Department Detectives Brett Magee, left, and Brian Watson, right, escort Dustin Musso, center, to a vehicle for transport in 2009.

Dustin Musso’s stepmother testified at a pretrial hearing Monday her stepson once told her he was going to kill her, his father, their dogs and birds, his grandfather and a Virginia law enforcement officer and torch their homes.

Musso, who is accused in the 2009 arson-related killing of his grandfather in Baton Rouge, made the threats in January 2007, the same day Musso’s father accused him of stealing money from him.

“I’m taking everything he loves from him,” Cindy Musso recalled her stepson saying about his father.

“That’s just the way he’s been all his life,” Dustin Musso’s father, Peter Musso III, testified.

Christine Hammond, a sheriff’s detective in Stafford County, Va., testified she found the threats Musso made against her and her family particularly convincing, disturbing and frightening.

“He said he was going to burn my house down and kill my kids and make me watch. He said he was going to rape my kids and skin them and make me watch. He told me he was going to beat me” to death, said Hammond, who was called to the Fredericksburg, Va., home of Musso’s father and stepmother on Jan. 6, 2007, after Musso allegedly threatened to kill them and burn the house down.

Musso’s attorney, Lance Unglesby, asked Hammond if Musso’s threats were merely said in anger.

“He told me it was a promise,” she replied, noting Musso also threatened to burn down the house of the magistrate he appeared before in Virginia in January 2007.

“This defendant keeps his promises. He’s a man of his word,” East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns argued to state District Judge Mike Erwin in reference to Dustin Musso’s alleged threats against his grandfather, Peter Musso Jr., 76. “This was a future promise that he indeed carried out a few years later.”

Unglesby fought to prevent a jury from hearing about Musso’s alleged confession and the threats he made in 2007, but Erwin determined they are admissible and can be heard by a jury when he stands trial.

“He lost that smirk pretty good when the judge let that stuff in,” Musso’s father said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.

Burns said after the hearing that Peter and Cindy Musso, Hammond and the magistrate, J.W. Walke, will be called to testify at Musso’s first-degree murder trial, scheduled to begin Dec. 2.

Musso faces life in prison if convicted of murdering his grandfather because prosecutors took the death penalty off the table in order to expedite the case and try him this year.

Burns has said potential mitigating circumstances were taken into consideration.

Musso’s attorneys have said he was in 23 foster homes starting at the age of 3 and has had a troubled and tortured life.

“If you look back at Dustin’s life, nobody has ever been there for him,” Unglesby said after court.

Peter Musso III testified Musso, 33, came to live with him and Cindy Musso in Virginia after serving prison time for stealing his grandmother’s car in Baton Rouge.

Peter Musso said his son came at him with a razor knife on Jan. 6, 2007, after the two argued about money missing from a change jar in the house.

Peter Musso said he picked up a phone and called 911 after his son said, “Arm yourself you fat (expletive).”

After making the threats to his family, Hammond and her family and the magistrate, Dustin Musso pleaded guilty in January 2008 to assault and battery on a law enforcement officer, three counts of threatening to bomb and burn, domestic assault and battery, and possession of marijuana.

He was ordered to serve 14 months in prison.

Musso had been living with his grandfather for only a few days when he allegedly killed the elder Musso, Baton Rouge police Detective Brian Watson testified Monday.

Peter Musso III said he told his father in 2007 that Dustin Musso had threatened to kill his grandfather.

“My dad was forgiving. The kid got out of jail (in 2009). He gave him a place to stay,” Peter Musso III testified.

Watson said Dustin Musso told detectives in July 2009 that he killed his grandfather because he was angry at him for reporting to police on May 4, 2009, that his grandson had stolen his truck, cellphone and money.

Peter Musso’s charred body was found after firefighters responded to a fire at his Glenda Drive residence at 3:42 a.m. on May 5, 2009.

Although he died of smoke inhalation, an autopsy showed Musso suffered trauma to his head, Baton Rouge police have said.

Musso was arrested May 5, 2009, in Montgomery, Ala., after he boarded a Greyhound bus in Baton Rouge bound for Fredericksburg, Va. Watson said Greyhound employees reported Musso had blood on his hands when he purchased his ticket. The detective also said he smelled gasoline on the clothes Musso was wearing when he was detained in Alabama.

Watson said Musso admitted pouring gas on his grandfather’s body and in the house. Musso also said he punched his grandfather after his grandfather first slapped and punched him, the detective testified.