Ticket purchased in early morning
Dustin Musso used blood-stained money to buy a bus ticket in Baton Rouge two hours before his grandfather’s home went up in flames with the elder Musso inside, a former Greyhound Bus Lines employee testified Wednesday at the younger Musso’s first-degree murder trial.
Cardies Berry, who worked as a ticket agent at the Greyhound station on Florida Boulevard on May 5, 2009, said Musso bought a one-way ticket to Fredericksburg, Va., for $154 at 1:43 a.m.
“The person who purchased this ticket, he had blood on his knuckles and the money had blood on it,” she said.
Berry made the statements during the second day of testimony in Dustin Musso’s trial in the murder of his grandfather, Peter Musso Jr., 76.
One of Peter Musso’s neighbors called 911 at 3:42 a.m. to report his Glenda Drive residence in the Belaire subdivision was ablaze.
Berry said Dustin Musso’s bus left Baton Rouge at 4 a.m.
When Musso was taken into custody at a Greyhound station in Montgomery, Ala., later that day, his clothes smelled of gasoline, Montgomery police detective Michael Myrick told the jury.
East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns, who said she expects to rest the state’s case Thursday, contends Musso, now 33, killed his grandfather, then poured gas on the victim and throughout the home before igniting the fire.
She claims the younger Musso was angry that his grandfather reported to police that his grandson had stolen his pickup and money from him a day earlier.
Musso’s lead court-appointed attorney, Lance Unglesby, acknowledged to the jury Tuesday that his client killed Peter Musso Jr. in a fit of rage, but said he did so because the elder Musso — according to Dustin Musso — molested him at an early age.
Baton Rouge police detective Brian Watson, the lead detective in the Musso homicide investigation, said Dustin Musso made no such allegation when Watson and another detective drove a talkative Musso from Montgomery to Baton Rouge on July 22, 2009.
Watson testified Musso admitted killing his grandfather after the two argued in a hallway about Musso taking his truck. Musso told the detectives his grandfather punched, slapped and cursed him.
“He said he must have lost it and punched his grandfather twice,” Watson recalled Musso telling the detectives. Musso said he left the house after Peter Musso Jr. fell to the floor, but returned and pulled his grandfather into a bathroom.
“He said he was covering up evidence,” Watson said of Musso’s stated reason for setting the house on fire.
Lance Lamarca, an arson investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said an accelerant detection dog named Darge detected 10 spots in the house where accelerant was present.
Dr. Gilbert Corrigan, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Peter Musso Jr.’s charred body, testified a major blow to the elderly man’s mouth contributed significantly to the massive bleeding on his brain that killed him.
Corrigan, who listed the cause of death as extensive brain injury and smoke inhalation, said the laceration to Peter Musso Jr.’s upper lip was “quite a blow.”
“The most common thing is a fist blow,” he said of the cause of such an injury.
Corrigan said the victim also had trauma to the back of his head, perhaps from falling backward after being struck.
“I think the major blow was the blow to the front lip area,” he said. “That’s through to the bone.”
Unglesby has asked the jury to find Musso guilty of manslaughter, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison. A first-degree murder conviction would put Musso behind bars for the rest of his life.
The District Attorney’s Office previously took the death penalty off the table in order to expedite the case and bring Musso to trial this year. Burns has said potential mitigating factors were taken into consideration.
Unglesby told the jury that Musso was in and out of foster homes starting at a young age.
Musso previously served time in prison for stealing his grandmother’s car from his grandparents’ Glenda Drive home.
Later, he served 14 months in Virginia after pleading 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 made threats against his grandfather, father and stepmother, as well as a sheriff’s detective and a magistrate in Virginia.