Musso testifies he’s not a monster, but doesn’t belong in society

But, I don’t belong in society, he tells jury

An emotional and sometimes combative Dustin Musso insisted Thursday he is no monster but admitted knocking his grandfather unconscious inside the 76-year-old’s Baton Rouge home and using 30 gallons of gasoline to burn the house down with the elder Musso inside.

Over the course of 90 minutes of gripping testimony that will resume Friday, Musso, 33, claimed his grandfather, Peter Musso Jr., molested him as a boy on multiple occasions inside the Glenda Drive “house full of sin” and the ill-tempered elder Musso threw the first punch during an argument on May 5, 2009.

“I snapped,” Musso, who is standing trial on a first-degree murder charge, said while being methodically questioned by his lead court-appointed attorney, Lance Unglesby. “The things he was saying, it broke my heart. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Peter Musso Jr. had called 911 on May 4, 2009, the day before he was killed, and reported his grandson had stolen his pickup and money from his wallet, but Musso — who previously served time in prison for stealing his grandmother’s car from the same Glenda Drive home in the Glen Oaks subdivision — testified his grandfather had allowed him to use the truck that day.

Musso said he loved and still loves his grandfather, and wishes he could turn back the clock.

“I can’t never take that back. That’s a burden I’ve got to walk with,” he said.

East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns called nearly three dozen witnesses to the stand over the course of three days before resting the state’s case Thursday afternoon. The case is expected to be given to the jury for deliberations sometime Friday.

Musso, who was called to the stand by Unglesby to testify in his own defense, was generally calm — yet tearful at times — while Unglesby questioned him. Musso said he longed for his day in court.

“I’m not asking for the jury to let me go,” conceded Musso, who said he has lived in a state of “sorrow, pain and rage” after bouncing from one foster home to another in his childhood years. “Do I belong in society? No.”

Musso became much more combative and defiant when Burns questioned him. Even before it was her turn to question him, Musso spoke up at one point and said in Burns’ direction, “Somebody over there trying to make me out to be a monster. I’m not a monster.”

“I don’t care about going to jail for the rest of my life. I wish you hadn’t taken the death penalty off the table,” he again said while looking at Burns.

The District Attorney’s Office dropped its pursuit of the death penalty earlier this year in order to speed up the case and bring Musso to trial this year, meaning a first-degree murder conviction would carry an automatic sentence of life in prison.

Unglesby asked the jury in his opening statement Tuesday to find Musso guilty of manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Musso had recently been released from a Virginia prison and had only been staying at his grandfather’s house for several days when the killing occurred, Baton Rouge police have said.

Musso testified his grandfather was intoxicated when he threatened to have him sent back to prison for stealing his truck. Burns noted that the elder Musso sounded anything but intoxicated in his 911 call.

“He told me I was a worthless piece of (expletive),” Musso said. “I told him he was a pedophile (expletive). He got very, very angry. He swung at me. He hit me upside the head. I hit him. The next thing I remember he was on the ground. He was unconscious.”

Musso said he attempted to perform CPR, then “spooked out” and left, but returned and set the house on fire by pouring gas inside the house and tossing a Molotov cocktail threw the window of the bathroom where his grandfather’s body rested. He admitted throwing piles of clothes on his grandfather “for maximum fire.” “I did something because I was enraged and hurt, because I went there looking for love,” he told Burns.

Musso rambled at times, prompting the prosecutor to say, “You be quiet. You be quiet.”

“How long did you rehearse this?” Burns said a short time later of Musso’s testimony.

“I don’t want to go back into society, woman,” Musso shot back a short time later when Burns pressed him.

Musso’s aunt, Jennifer Musso Vincent, also testified Thursday that her father, Peter Musso Jr., was a violent man who forced his children to fight each other and enjoyed watching.

She said she is not glad her father is dead, but did take satisfaction in knowing the “house of hell” had burned down.