Charles Serafino: ‘My mind hasn’t healed yet’

Court rejects killer Getsy’s lethal-injection appeal


Associated Press Writer

HUBBARD — The intended victim of a murder-for-hire, wounded seven times, dragged himself across a bloody floor, unaware that the gunfire had turned on his mother, who was knocked to the floor and shot at point-blank range.

A childhood acquaintance had offered $5,000 to have Charles Serafino, then 39, and any witnesses killed in a dispute over ownership of a landscaping business.

Accepting the offer was Jason Getsy, now 33, who had killed a companion in a Russian-roulette game three years earlier. He faces execution by lethal injection Tuesday in the death of Ann Serafino, 66. She and her son were shot in their Hubbard Township home July 7, 1995.

Gov. Ted Strickland, who has expressed reservations about the death penalty, must decide whether to accept the parole board’s recommendation to spare Getsy’s life. The board was concerned that the man who orchestrated the crime, John Santine, was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison, though Getsy received the harsher death penalty.

On Wednesday, a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected in a 2-1 vote an appeal by Getsy that challenged Ohio’s lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment. The Cincinnati-based panel said the appeal was filed too late.

The Serafino ranch home, set back from a country road two miles from the Pennsylvania state line, erupted in gunfire before 2 a.m. as Getsy and an accomplice shot their way inside.

Charles Serafino, wounded in the arm, back, chest and mouth, decided to play dead.

“I’m thinking I’ve got to just lay here because if they shoot me again, I know I’m going to die,” he said in an interview. “As I did that, that’s when he hit my mom over the head.”

The blow with a revolver opened a 4-inch gash and probably was enough to kill Ann Serafino, who fell to the floor. At that point, according to prosecutors, Getsy stood over her and said, “Die, bitch,” and shot her twice.

Serafino, disoriented from his wounds, doesn’t remember hearing the shots that killed his mother, but he feared the worst.

After the gunmen fled, Serafino used his good arm to drag himself across a linoleum floor to get to a phone and call police. “All this blood there is giving me an easy slide,” he recalled.

Serafino didn’t think he would survive and asked the 911 operator to make sure that Serafino’s father knew that he loved him.

It didn’t take long for police in close-knit Hubbard to crack the case: Lead investigator D. Michael Begeot went to talk to a tipster who had heard of a threat against Charles Serafino. When the officer arrived he saw Getsy, who had had a number of run-ins with police.

“It started coming together right from the onset,” said Begeot, who quickly got information implicating Getsy.

Serafino described his mother as his best friend and said even as an adult he still playfully hid from her when she returned home.

He still gets counseling and struggles with memories of Getsy’s crime.

“He really did a lot of damage to me that has healed,” said Serafino, fingering a quarter-size gouge in his right arm. “This stuff has healed, but my mind hasn’t healed yet. I might seem normal, and I would say I’m normal, but I have a hard time.”

His sister, Nancy Serafino, 51, of Mansfield, goes through periods when she wants to talk about the ordeal and times when she breaks out in hives and cannot broach the subject of her mother’s murder and Getsy.

“Truly from the bottom of my heart, I know he’s a cold-blooded killer,” said Nancy Serafino, who has written the governor several times appealing for Getsy’s execution. “He went back in that room and stood over her and shot her twice. That is not a human being.”

Mike Benza, an attorney who has represented Getsy, said Getsy should have his life spared because he acted under Santine’s threats against him and family members.

“He was the puppet master,” Benza said. “He controlled these kids. He used the fear that he generated in them.”

Getsy had a limited criminal record before the Serafino murder: a disorderly conduct charge in early 1995 and a 1992 negligent homicide conviction in the Russian roulette death of a 14-year-old companion. In the homicide, Getsy told police he knew the .22-caliber pistol had a bullet but didn’t think it was in the firing position. Getsy got counseling and a suspended sentence, according to parole board records.

Getsy, who dropped out of school in the 12th grade, never met his father and was raised by his mother and stepfather. He began using drugs and alcohol at 12, often used marijuana on a daily basis and tried LSD.

In the months before the killing, he had jobs for short periods, including paving work, landscaping and selling at a hardware store.

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