Johnathan Porco once helped post bail for his brother Christopher after he was charged with murdering their father. On Monday, July 24, in a crowded Orange County courtroom, the naval lieutenant told the jury in his brother’s murder trial that an ax kept in the family’s garage looks similar to the ax used to attack his parents.
You were shown a photograph of the ax, said prosecutor David Rossi.
`Does it look like the ax your parents owned?`
`It looks similar because it had a marking from the local hardware store,` said Johnathan Porco.
`Can you describe the ax?` asked Rossi.
`It has a red head and a wooden handle,` said Porco.
Christopher Porco is accused of wielding an ax in the middle of the night on Nov. 15, 2004, after driving from Rochester to Albany on the state Thruway and striking his mother and father, Joan and Peter Porco, between 10 and 30 times in the master bedroom of their Brockley Drive, Delmar, home. Peter Porco died from injuries sustained in the ax attack.
His wife Joan Porco survived her critical injuries but has no recollection of the crime.
Money, according to prosecutors, is believed to be one of the motives. Christopher Porco forged his father’s signature electronically on two loans totaling $48,000 during the summer and fall of 2004 to the dismay of his father, Peter.
`Do you know if you or your brother were beneficiaries of your mother and father’s will?` asked Rossi.
`Yes, I did know if either my mother or father died, one of us would be beneficiaries,` said Johnathan Porco.
`Was your brother Chris ever a part of these conversations?` Rossi asked.
`Yes, because we would probably talk about it over dinner,` said Porco.
Porco explained how a security alarm system was installed in the Brockley Drive home after a burglary during Thanksgiving weekend 2002 and only the immediate family knew the four-digit code.
Johnathan Porco also told jurors that relations are now strained between him and Christopher, but did not elaborate. Defense Attorney Laurie Shanks said outside the courthouse that police are to blame for the family split.
`They have played one family member against the other,` said Shanks. `I think it is understandable that everyone is under a tremendous amount of stress.`
On Monday, Johnathan never looked at Christopher while testifying on the witness stand.
`I think the jury found out the relationship is strained,` said Chief Prosecutor Michael McDermott. `Johnathan Porco is a very private person, and I think what he believes in his heart he wishes to remain private.`
Joan Porco is on the witness list of both the prosecution and the defense, but has yet to testify. She has publicly stated her son would never commit the crime though she has no recollection of that night. Jurors heard Johnathan Porco fondly describe his father Peter Porco.
`Dad was a hard-working guy who loved the law, and he was a good father,` Johnathan Porco said.
The defense introduced a new development in the beginning of the trial’s fifth week, a shadowy figure that Joan Porco believes she saw two weeks prior to the crime outside her Delmar home. Joan Porco told police through a family friend that the motion sensor lights outside the Brockley Drive home went off when the stranger was visible in the driveway. Shanks said Bethlehem police, including lead Det. Christopher Bowdish, were aware of this matter but never bothered to investigate it.
`We just want to show what Det. Bowdish did or didn’t do,` said Shanks after the jury was out of the courtroom.
`The police absolutely refused to follow any leads,` she added.
McDermott said over 200 neighbors in the vicinity of 36 Brockley Drive were interviewed after the crimes, and the defense allegations of shoddy police work are preposterous.
`This is completely irrelevant,` said McDermott. `It is not a defense claim that a police investigation was sloppy.`
Bowdish is an important witness for the prosecution. Not only was he the lead investigator in the Porco murder case for the Bethlehem police department, he was also one of the first officers on the scene at Brockley Drive in November 2004. He is expected to testify that Joan Porco nodded `yes,` her son Christopher committed the crimes against her and Peter Porco when she was lying near death and couldn’t speak from injuries sustained in the attack.