Silent about motive, caverns murderer is given life — (San Antonio Express News)

SSRI Ed note: Wife of "loving, truthful, honest and nonviolent" man dies, he is given antidepressants. Has an episode of delirium, shoots and kills a friend. Gets life.

Original article no longer available

San Antonio Express News

Posted: 10/08/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Zeke MacCormack, Express-News Staff Writer

BOERNE ­ Moments before being sentenced to life in prison, Dario R. Acevedo rose in court Friday to speak about killing Jeffery Donofrio.

Donofrio’s anguished siblings, starved for an explanation of the March 19 shooting at Cascade Caverns, leaned forward to catch every word from the only person who knows why their brother died.

But defense attorney Jimmy Parks intervened, whispering to Acevedo, who reversed himself and told state District Judge Steve Ables he’d say nothing.

Convicted of murder Thursday by a jury, Acevedo, 27, had never commented publicly about the case.

Denied insight into why he killed a friendly acquaintance as they worked on an electrical wiring job, Donofrio’s kin took solace in the sentence.

Ables said he saw “no other alternative” to a life sentence. Acevedo executed an unsuspecting man from behind, and just weeks later he gravely injured an elderly female relative by slicing her throat, the judge reminded the defendant, noting, “I’m not sure you can have two more horrific acts.”

Acevedo must serve 30 years before being eligible for parole. The sentence shattered many of his family members on hand.

In testifying for leniency, they called the defendant loving, truthful, honest and nonviolent, with no criminal record before Donofrio’s slaying, which they considered accidental.

When Donofrio was shot, Acevedo was grief stricken and traumatized over the death of his common-law wife, Jill Beardsley, a co-owner of the tourist cave where he lived and worked.

Mournful wails of Lorraine Acevedo, the defendant’s mother, echoed down courthouse hallways. Her son then sat impassively through victim impact statements in the courtroom.

Mary Alice Donofrio said she never really knew pain and sorrow until learning her baby brother had been shot to death at Cascade Caverns, where he’d come from Florida to help get it refurbished.

“I consider you a coward for not telling us what really happened,” she told Acevedo.

The slaying of Jeffery, at 39 the youngest of six Donofrio children, has caused the family “unbearable pain,” said Suzzie Donofrio, 47. She pledged to oppose Acevedo’s every bid for parole.

If the shooting was accidental, Michael Donofrio, 46, asked Acevedo, why had he never apologized?

Referring to evidence that Acevedo had used too much speed the night before the slaying, Michael Donofrio said, “I don’t know if drugs turned you into a monster, but I hope you never see the light of day again.”

Acevedo still faces an aggravated assault charge in Bexar County in the April 18 slashing of Delia Padilla, 74, who testified during the punishment phase of Acevedo’s murder trial Friday.

A third cousin of Acevedo, Padilla said she’d just arrived from Florida to visit when Acevedo, wearing “an evil look,” cut her throat with a utility knife.

The defendant’s father, Ramiro Acevedo Jr., testified that his son’s normally good life was destroyed in a two-week period.

The father, who is the postmaster in Comfort, testified that Dario Acevedo said Donofrio’s shooting “was an accident,” and that during the attack on Padilla, “he didn’t know what he was doing.”

“That’s all he ever said,” Ramiro Acevedo said.

Before the attack on Padilla, Acevedo had been hallucinating, conversing with himself and the television, according to his mother, who blamed anti-depressants for the odd behavior.

Juror Pat Lasich, who stayed to watch the punishment phase of the trial, said the “accidental shooting” claim didn’t get far with the panel.

“We felt, very much so, that he knew what he was doing,” Lasich said, noting Acevedo had loaded the gun, put it in his pocket and depressed the safety while pulling the trigger to shoot Donofrio.