21 years later and Rossi daughters “still seek justice” for slain father

Victor Rossi with daughters, Emily and Melanie (1996)

On October 27, 1996 Victor Rossi was murdered in his St. Amant home.  No one has ever been tried, never convicted, for murdering Victor Rossi; and it is unlikely that anyone ever will be. The investigation into Victor Rossi’s murder was closed nearly two decades ago with the commonly held perception, fostered by prosecutors, that Daniel Blank perpetrated the crime along with five other murders.

It is a circumstance with which certain of Rossi’s family have struggled to cope all this time.  It has not gotten any easier and five of those family members supplied affidavits in support of Daniel Blank’s pursuit of a new trial and/or new death penalty adjudication.

Blank’s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is pending in the Middle District of Louisiana (federal) Court.

By the fall of 1997 six months of investigation had failed to solve multiple murders committed in three River Parishes; Ascension, St. James and St. John the Baptist.  Frustration (and public pressure) mounting, a Task Force had been formed as leads were exhausted to the point where Gonzales’ police chief engaged the services of a professional psychic whose “astral travels” might provide some clue, any clue.

It was Daniel Blank’s November 13, 1997 confession that closed the books on six murders and two attempted murders; eventually landing Blank on death row where he’s been for two decades.  He was, ultimately, convicted of five murders, all occurring between March-May of 1997.

Victor Rossi was beaten to death with a baseball bat, which his killer left in the bathtub at Rossi’s St. Amant residence for authorities to find, nearly six months before Gonzales’ Lillian Phillippe’s murder.  Blood from two people was found on the bat and Daniel Blank was excluded forensically as a contributor; but he confessed to Rossi’s murder along with all the others in November of 1997.

Only this year were Rossi’s daughters, Melanie and Emily, made aware of the following excerpt from a 20-year old FBI serology report (the results are from DNA testing on blood from the bat which bludgeoned their father to death):

 “The DNA typing results obtained for specimen Q5 [“envelope listed to contain serology evidence from bat”] indicated the presence of DNA from more than one individual.  Because of this mixture, no conclusive typing results were obtained for matching purposes; however, the source of K1 (ROSSI) cannot be excluded as a potential major contributor to the DNA detected for specimen Q5.  . . .

Based on the DNA typing results previously listed from FBI Laboratory number 980951054 S HE GX (FBI File number 95A-HQ-1264252), the source of specimens K1 (BLANK) and K3 (BELLARD) are excluded as potential contributors to the mixture of DNA detected in specimen Q5.TR. 1718-1721.”

Blank’s current pleading argues that: “This meant that the FBI Crime Lab found DNA or blood on the murder weapon that did not belong to Victor Rossi, Daniel Blank, or Cynthia Bellard (Mr. Blank’s girlfriend and initial co-defendant).”

“This is very upsetting to hear now, and not then,” reads the affidavit of Rossi’s daughter, Emily.  “I believe that my father’s murder was not adequately investigated by the Sheriff’s Office.”

The bat was included in evidence from the Rossi killing introduced at Blank’s trial for the Phillippe homicide, ending in his conviction for First Degree Murder and sentence to death.  Melanie Rossi was called to the witness stand “to get some evidence in” by Assistant DA Charles Long.

Blank’s Habeas petition attacks “other crimes” evidence being admitted for the Phillipe jury’s consideration in a 622-page petition which includes every Assignment of Error conceivable in the minds of zealous defense attorneys.

Victor Rossi’s daughters do not believe Daniel Blank murdered their father; neither do Rossi’s first wife (Melanie and Emily’s mother), sister, and niece; all of whom provided affidavits in support of Blank’s petition.  They have requested a meeting with District Attorney Ricky Babin and his staff “only” to urge additional forensic testing of blood found on the murder weapon and discuss their concerns of the investigation.  The meeting has yet to occur.

Babin, who was an ADA at the time, did not participate in Blank’s late-1990s prosecution.  He maintains that testing of the Rossi murder weapon, along with other items of evidence in Blank’s various cases, is no longer feasible.

Cold comfort indeed to those Rossi family members who believe Victor’s killer has yet to be identified, much less brought to justice.  They have their own suspicions about the identity of Victor Rossi’s killer.

Melanie Rossi “discovered” her father’s body at 7:20 p.m. “after being lured to his house by his purported girlfriend, Judy Recile.”  At Recile’s urging Melanie attempted to contact her father by phone, visiting his mechanic shop, and then to the Sheriff’s Office even though Melanie suspected nothing amiss.

“Judy Recile obviously already knew my father was dead,” Melanie Rossi says in retrospect.

“Strange things happened at the house,” Melanie’s affidavit reads.  “One-Judy Recile asked me to try to get into the house, even though she knew where the spare key was-and retrieved it; Two-Judy Recile stated that she had been to the house a number of times that day looking for my father-but supposedly never used the spare key prior to their arrival at the house that evening together.”

Victor Rossi’s lifeless body was “in plain sight, a few inches from the window.”  Melanie “stumbled right into my father laying on the sofa.”  Her first impression was that he had committed suicide given the blood splattered wall and the position of Rossi’s hand which was under a bloody towel covering his head.  Recile, without hesitation according to Melanie, accused an individual named Miller Terry who had briefly worked at Victor Rossi’s shop.

Daniel Blank’s Habeas petition points to Recile and Terry “as strong alternate suspects” in the Rossi murder whose involvement was never fully determined by law enforcement.  Blank also seeks to test the Rossi murder weapon.

Miller Terry is described by Rossi’s ex-wife as “a big, scary biker dude” who was witnessed leaving Victor Rossi’s home at 4:30 p.m. on the day of the killing.  Terry became aggressive at Rossi’s funeral while seeking access to the deceased’s mechanic shop.

“Judy Recile never showed up at the funeral, never called, never sent flowers-nothing,” states the affidavit of Emily Rossi.  “I saw her at her place of employment when I was working a few years ago.  I asked her why she didn’t come to the funeral or call if she really was my father’s girlfriend or cared for him at all.  Judy Recile said, ‘I was too scared to come’ to the funeral.  I’ve never heard from her since.”

Both Recile and Terry were questioned, the former on multiple occasions, by authorities.  But the Rossi family remains unconvinced that everything was by the book.

Rossi’s sister, Viola, has had 20 years to think, and think, and think.

Viola ends her affidavit: “I remain very dissatisfied with the investigation into my brother’s murder.  There is more to discover… and I would like the truth to surface.  My family needs some resolution.”