Anthony Nicodemo, a reputed mob soldier, was charged Thursday night in the daytime slaying Wednesday of Gino DiPietro outside his home in South Philadelphia, city police said.
Police matched a bullet fragment found on DiPietro's clothes with a gun found in an automobile registered Nicodemo, a police source confirmed Thursday.
Nicodemo, 41, of the 3200 block of South 17th Street, was charged Thursday night with murder and related offenses.
Also Thursday, a federal judge said he would individually question the 15 jurors in the federal racketeering trial of seven alleged Philadelphia mobsters when court resumes Tuesday to see if they have been exposed to news coverage of the DiPietro slaying.
DiPietro, 50, was gunned down in the 2800 block of South Iseminger Street shortly before 3 p.m. A black Honda SUV was seen speeding away, and police later located a 2011 Honda Pilot in the 3200 block of South 17th Street, where Nicodemo lives with his wife and two children. A gun was found in the Honda.
DiPietro's son, Julian, 22, reacted to the news of the ballistics match by saying of Nicodemo: "Hope he rots" in prison.
Julian DiPietro and his brother, Gino Jr., were at their father's home Thursday evening, going through family memorabilia, when the news broke of the ballistics match.
Julian DiPietro said his father had left behind the mob life and was a hardworking man who delivered auto parts for a living. His father had just come home from work when he was fatally shot.
"About six years he had that job, staying out of trouble and being a family man," said an emotional Julian DiPietro. "His past is his past."
Julian said he had no idea why his father was killed, and did not immediately suspect Nicodemo.
"The [expletive] mobsters. The so-called mob," he said angrily.
He said his father's funeral would be private.
At Nicodemo's home in an upscale section of Packer Park, a woman answering the intercom did not respond to a reporter's attempt to ask questions. The house was decorated with Christmas lights and inflatable teddy bears.
A neighbor who did not give his name said that Nicodemo lived there with his wife and two children and that he was a good neighbor. Other than that, the neighbor said, "I don't know anything," and he went back into his house.
At a Nicodemo family home one block north of where DiPietro was slain, people gathered as the news broke. A woman inside the house waved away a reporter.
In the 1200 block of Federal Street, residents said Nicodemo was "pouring money" into renovating two properties, including one he has used for a real estate business.
One resident said that Nicodemo kept a low profile.
The shooting of DiPietro brought an element of surprise to the trial of Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six underlings as it ended its eighth week of testimony with the conclusion of the federal prosecutors' case.
The jurors were not present in court on Thursday, a day reserved for lawyers for the seven alleged mobsters to argue motions for judgments of acquittal, a usual move once the prosecution's case has ended. U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno said he would rule on the motions on Tuesday when the trial resumes.
But before judge and lawyers ended Thursday's trial session, Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs, brought up the DiPietro killing and how it might affect the trial jury.
Jacobs told Robreno he was worried because DiPietro's name had been mentioned in trial testimony and various media reports were speculating on a link between the shooting and the trial.
"I think it's incumbent upon the court to say something [to the jurors] about being exposed to this," Jacobs said.
Despite weeks of testimony, DiPietro's name may very well be familiar to jurors. One of the last wiretapped conversations prosecutors played for the jury involved DiPietro and the speaker the jurors heard was Ligambi codefendant Damion Canalichio.
It was Robreno who suggested that he call the jurors individually into his chambers as they arrive on Tuesday morning to determine if they knew anything about DiPietro's killing and, if they did, whether they could still fairly consider the evidence against the seven.
Organized-crime expert George Anastasia, a former veteran Inquirer reporter now blogging about the Ligambi trial for the Internet site BigTrial.net, said that if DiPietro's slaying is linked to the Philadelphia mob or any of the seven defendants, it would undercut the defense's theory of the case: a nonviolent, modern organized crime family far removed from the storied days of violence and hit men.
Anastasia said DiPietro, a convicted drug dealer, was rumored to be cooperating with law enforcement.
Assuming there are no significant problems arising from jurors exposed to the news reports about the shooting, Robreno said the defense would begin its case late Tuesday morning. Based on the defense lawyers' assessments, Robreno said he expected the defense cases might end as early as Wednesday afternoon.
After the end of testimony, the jurors would hear closing arguments from the prosecution and defense lawyers, get instructions in the law from Robreno and then begin deliberating on a verdict.