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Murder Bares Sordid Teen Culture : Crime: Death probe unveils a suburban network involved in prostitution, pornography and robbery.

August 15, 1993|DAN SEWELL | ASSOCIATED PRESS

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Marty Puccio, a young man with a lot of time on his hands these days, has been prolific in pursuing his hobby: writing reggae songs.

The lyrics of his latest song tell why at age 20 Puccio sits in Broward County Jail, potentially facing the rest of his life behind bars or even death in Florida's electric chair.

Attorney Thomas Cazel said Friday that it is natural for Puccio to express himself in music but added, "He appreciates the seriousness of the charges." He would not release details about the new song.

A grand jury soon will hear testimony that accuses six young people, four of them teens, of luring 20-year-old Bobby Kent to a rock quarry lake with the promise of drag-racing a new car, attacking him with knives and a baseball bat, and leaving his body in the lake the night of July 14.

"I guess you eventually run into all various possibilities," said Broward County sheriff's spokesman Ott Cefkin, who has spent three decades as either a crime-beat reporter or lawman. "This is the first like this."

According to one statement given to police, Kent pleaded for help after the first knife penetrated. He turned to his best friend for years, his fellow supermarket deli clerk, his nearly inseparable neighbor five doors down in their middle-class Hollywood neighborhood, and called: "Jesus, I'm cut! Marty, help me!"

Puccio, it's alleged, answered by stabbing him.

" 'Leave it to Beaver' on steroids," suggested lawyer Michael Dutko, as if Wally, Beaver and the rest finally got fed up with Eddie Haskell and took him out and killed him.

In the days since the killing, scrutiny of the young lives has led into a subterranean suburbia of underemployed, unambitious kids, still at home with little prospect for the future. Elements of abusive male-female relationships, other violence, pornography, strong-arm robbery, phone sex and prostitution enter the picture.

Cazel said Puccio was "very distraught and denies" stories of homosexuality that surfaced recently with a 42-year-old man named Lawrence Shafer. Shafer claimed he paid Puccio to talk dirty to him over the phone, made pornographic videotapes with Puccio and Kent, and was beaten and robbed repeatedly by them.

"There are so many spinoff stories to this case that may or may not have an impact on the ultimate outcome," Cazel said.

Another key figure in the case is 17-year-old Alice Jean Willis, who was involved in a high school hooker ring in which a retired boat captain allegedly pimped for teen-age girls he recruited from Ft. Lauderdale suburbs. Her role hasn't been disclosed, but she is said to be cooperating with police.

Willis left her home and year-old baby in May to move in with Lisa Connelly, Puccio's girlfriend and her friend since first grade. Connelly fixed her up with Kent.

The relationship didn't last long. She filed a complaint that Kent beat her.

Supposedly, Kent also dominated Puccio, slapping him around and transforming him from "nice guy" to abusive jerk.

"It's all nonsense," said Kent's 22-year-old sister, Laila. "He's not here to defend himself."

A circle began forming, according to comments trickling out: Puccio, ready to escape his friend's domination; Willis, supposedly beaten by Kent; Connelly, her boyfriend dominated by Kent; Connelly's cousin, Derek Dzvirko, eager to protect her; Donald Semenec, Willis' new boyfriend; and Derek Kaufman, self-proclaimed tough guy with a theft record, brought in to help.

Some describe a scenario in which youthful tough talk generated a pack mentality that took its participants by surprise and resulted in a sloppily vicious killing.

"There was a groundswell of hatred and anger over continued fear of Bobby Kent that led to a tragic end that nobody really expected to happen," said Dutko, Willis' attorney.

He said much of his initial interview with his client, who didn't actively participate in Kent's killing, was "explaining to a 17-year-old that she faces the most serious penalty--death by electrocution."

"All these kids were playing 'chicken' with somebody else's life," said Dr. John Spencer, a Broward County forensic psychologist. "Nobody else swerved."

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