MAYVILLE – Lawrence Thompson expressed no doubt that Anthony “Rob” Taglianetti drove from Woodbridge, Va., with the intent to shoot and kill Clymer Central School Superintendent Keith L. Reed Jr.
The way Reed was shot – at close range, in the upper back – is a classic military-style “kill shot,” said Thompson, on the jury of five women and seven men that found Reed guilty Friday of second-degree murder.
“The military teaches you that,” said Thompson, who served from 1986 to 1990 in the Air Force.
Taglianetti’s military background loomed large throughout the trial, and it apparently weighed heavily on the minds of jurors as they deliberated his fate for three hours Friday afternoon
Taglianetti served in the Marines from 1990 to 1994 and was a weapons expert and expert marksman. His duties included guarding the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, and he also was part of the Marine squadron responsible for transporting the president by helicopter.
Chautauqua County District Attorney David W. Foley mentioned Taglianetti’s Marine background in his closing remarks, using it to help explain how Taglianetti could appear so calm and collected while visiting Clymer Central School in the hours before he killed Reed.
“Remember what we’re dealing with here,” said Foley, who described Taglianetti as a Marine with “some of the highest training qualifications in military tactics.”
Foley then asserted one of those tactics was to remove the exterior light bulbs from Reed’s house, so that when Reed showed up, Taglianetti would have an easier time in the dark overtaking him.
“However he did it, I don’t think Keith Reed Jr. stood a chance,” said Thompson. “Those guys are all trained in hand-to-hand combat. There would be no sign of a struggle. It would happen so quick.”
Thompson, who was juror No. 7, pointed out to other jurors what seemed like an obscure detail about a metal detector, which was revealed during the testimony of Mary Taglianetti.
Well into their deliberations, jurors then asked Chautauqua County Court Judge John T. Ward to read back the contents of an email Mary Taglianetti sent to Reed on Aug. 20, after Rob Taglianetti discovered a sexually graphic email exchange between his wife and Reed.
Mary Taglianetti wrote that her husband “packed up his metal detector and everything. He might send you another email.”
For Thompson, the metal detector reference helped explain how three shots could be fired but only a single bullet found at the crime scene, despite an exhaustive search of the Reed property for other bullets.
Thompson said Taglianetti used copper-clad bullets, not lead, so he could locate them himself with the metal detector.
“I think he cleaned up the scene before he left,” said Thompson. “Most of the jury had completely forgotten about the metal detector. That was the most important detail to me. The minute I heard about that in testimony, it stuck in my head.”
But how could Taglianetti be so precise in his execution of the murder and then leave the murder weapon, a .357 Magnum revolver with Reed’s bloodstains on it, underneath the front side of his gold Buick when U.S. marshals caught up to him in a remote Virginia forest?
Thompson, who runs a construction company and lives in Ashville, figures Taglianetti simply ran out of time.
“I’m sure he planned on getting rid of the weapon. I don’t think he planned on his wife turning him in. They snagged him before he even got back to his campsite that day,” he said.
Thompson pointed out that when Taglianetti was stopped, he had weights in the back of his car that could have been used to weigh down the weapon thrown into a creek or lake.
If police hadn’t found the gun, prosecutors probably would not have been able to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, said Thompson.
Another juror, Sean Sullivan, said Taglianetti’s status as a Marine stuck with the jurors and helped explain how the crime could have been committed with so little physical evidence left at the scene.
The threatening emails Taglianetti sent to Reed turned out to be damning, including one in particular, in which Taglianetti warned Reed that he was a “former Marine.”
He also promised an “[expletive] attack” on the superintendent, who was involved in a long-distance online romance with Taglianetti’s wife, Mary.
Taglianetti’s lawyer, Nathaniel L. Barone, tried to persuade the jury that Taglianetti didn’t write the threatening emails, and they were more likely the handiwork of his deceitful wife. He reminded jurors of the motto: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” No one who had served in the Marine Corps, Barone said, would identify himself as a “former Marine.”
Barone’s argument made sense, said Sullivan, but it also reiterated Taglianetti’s potentially deadly background.
“You always have that training,” said Sullivan, who was juror No. 9.
Thompson interpreted the particular threatening email in which Taglianetti mentions that he is a former Marine “almost as if he was predicting his own future” – because a true Marine wouldn’t do what Taglianetti did.
Thompson said he didn’t have sympathy for Taglianetti, but he felt sorry for his four children, who no longer will have a father in their everyday lives.
He took no pleasure in convicting Taglianetti, and he admitted crying along with other jurors as they came to their conclusion.
The trial, he said, was “the hardest thing I ever did in my life.”
“It was rough for all of us,” he added. “ We knew, the more we talked, the guiltier and guiltier and guiltier Taglianetti was.”