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He Goes After the Man Who Killed His Brother

March 01, 1987|MICHAEL MOLINSKI | United Press International

SAN JOSE — Jerry de Milte was 12 years old when his brother was shot to death--too young to fully understand what had happened, too young to want revenge.

About seven years later, the killer still lives in the neighborhood where they all grew up together.

"I see him in the supermarket. I see him on the street. I see him when he drives by," De Milte said. "I didn't know who he was before, but I do now, and it hurts. To him it's over. It will never be over for me."

Joseph Greco shot Jon de Milte Sept. 4, 1979, with a shotgun in an argument about a debt. Greco was arrested on suspicion of murder, but the charge was reduced to voluntary manslaughter in a plea-bargain with the Santa Clara County district attorney. His four-year prison sentence was suspended, and after serving 10 months in the County Jail, he was released on probation.

"Justice wasn't served, not even close," Jerry de Milte says now. "There's no remorse there. He needs to be reminded that it's still not over for a lot of people."

De Milte, now 19, said he does not believe in revenge, but in order to "make him remember," he filed a $100,000 wrongful-death suit against Greco late last month.

De Milte and Greco met for the first time about two months ago at a local gym, and De Milte said the tense meeting was one of the reasons he decided to file the suit.

"I walked up and asked him if he knew who I was. He didn't at first, but then he realized," De Milte said.

"I told him it took every bit of will power I had not to rip his head off. He said, 'Hey, I did my time.' Just like that. If he would have maybe said the right thing. . . ."

De Milte no longer goes to that gym.

Since his brother's death, De Milte has seen more psychiatrists than he can remember and was arrested more than once for drunk driving and other charges.

"I went from being a straight-A student to getting in trouble day after day," he said. "Our dad worked a lot. He was never around. Jon filled in for him. When he died, I didn't know where to go. I was lost. I kind of got cheated."

Jon de Milte was killed at the age of 24. A third brother, Jay, died of appendicitis in 1969.

"Jay was to Jon what Jon was to me," Jerry de Milte said. "I was the follower. He was the leader."

Jon's death left De Milte, his older sister, Joy, who lived with her husband, and their parents.

In 1984, within a three months of each other, both parents died--their father of a heart attack and their mother of cancer.

"That was hard to take," De Milte said, "but my brother's death was even harder. Jon was always laughing. He always got my spirits up.

"It takes a long time to sink in--he's never going to be there again."

Only recently has De Milte put his life back together. He works as a salesman for a Palo Alto electronics firm and makes a decent salary.

"It's taken seven years, but I've proved that I can be successful."

De Milte could not legally sue until he was an adult--18 years old, and once he turned 18 he had one year until the statute of limitations ran out.

He filed the suit Jan. 30, two days before his 19th birthday.

"I'm not suing for the money, although financially it would help me out. I just want him to know it's not over.

"When I was younger I didn't know any better, but now, it would have helped to know that he's behind bars."

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