Murder of Bobby Kent
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Kent in 1992
|Born||May 12, 1973|
|Died||July 14, 1993
Weston, Florida, U.S.A
Bobby Kent (May 12, 1973 – July 14, 1993) was an American man who was murdered by seven people, including his best friend, Martin Joseph "Marty" Puccio, Jr. (born March 21, 1973) in Weston, Florida.
Events prior to murder
Bobby Kent, the son of Iranian immigrants Fred and Farah Kent (née "Khayam"), attended South Broward High School in Hollywood, Florida. According to Tim Donnelly, who prosecuted all the conspirators for this murder, one attorney described Kent as "very Eddie Haskell like. Adults saw him one way (polite and charming) while the kids saw him in a completely different way."
Marty Puccio is an Italian-American and was raised Roman Catholic. Kent and Puccio had known each other since third grade, had lived on the same block in Hollywood in Broward County since that time, and were good friends as adults. Bad blood, however, existed between the two. Puccio felt "ill-will and hatred" towards Kent because he would bully and pummel Puccio. Both sets of parents were wary of the friendship, as well. Puccio's parents, Martin Sr. and Veronica, were cautious because Marty often returned from being with Kent with bruises or bleeding. Fred Kent thought of Puccio as a wayward slacker who had no future (Puccio was a high school dropout) and felt the friendship with his son would destroy the future he was helping him build. Frequent gym goers, both boys were rumored to use steroids, which in Kent's case, according to testimonial accounts, significantly contributed to his erratic, aggressive behavior.
Kent and Puccio had experimented with making homosexual porn movies, hoping to distribute them to local shops. Neither Kent nor Puccio actually participated in these movies, but rather allegedly directed them and coaxed a Florida man in his 40s to perform on camera. Kent tried to peddle a movie, titled Rough Boys, to porn shops across South Florida. None took him up on the offer, due to the poor audio and video quality as well as the lack of any sexual activities in the film beyond the man dancing nude and playing with a dildo.
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Toward the beginning of 1993, Puccio (aged 20) began dating Lisa Connelly (aged 18). Being frustrated by how much time her boyfriend spent with Kent (aged 20), Connelly tried to distract Kent from Puccio by setting up her friend Alice (Ali) Willis (aged 17) with Kent. Kent and Ali dated for a few weeks but Kent was abusive toward Ali and she cut off the relationship. In June, Puccio confided to Connelly that Kent had been abusive to him quite often over the years. Connelly tried to convince him to cut off his friendship, but Puccio did not seem able to do that. By that time, Connelly knew she was pregnant by Puccio and was determined that Kent was not going to get in her way of a permanent relationship with Puccio.
Although Connelly admitted to having sex with Kent as well as Puccio, she maintained the baby was Puccio's.
Allegedly, Connelly decided that Kent needed to be eliminated permanently and started talking to Puccio and other friends about murdering Kent. On July 13, 1993, Connelly called Willis and told her that "Bobby Kent was planning to come to Palm Bay (where Willis was living) to murder her and smother her baby (by a previous relationship) unless she returned to Broward County to date him again." Willis claimed Connelly asked her to come to Connelly's house to discuss murdering Bobby Kent. Willis went to Connelly's house and brought two friends, her current boyfriend, Donald Semenec (aged 17), and Heather Swallers (aged 18). Connelly had previously contacted a self-proclaimed "hit man" named Derek Kaufman (aged 20), who had been recommended by some friends. When Willis, Semenec and Swallers arrived, they all went to Kaufman's home. They told him they wanted him to get a gun so they could kill Kent that night, but Kaufman told them he could not get a gun that quickly. Willis, Connelly, Semenec and Swallers then went back to Connelly's house and were joined by her cousin, Derek Dzvirko (aged 19). Puccio alleged he was not a part of these meetings on July 13.
On the night of July 14, around 11:30 p.m., the seven joined together at Puccio's house and made their plans. They had a lead pipe, two knives, and a baseball bat. Puccio had asked Kent to join them, which he did around 11:45 p.m. They headed out to a construction site. Apparently Kent thought he might be able to have sex with his former girlfriend, Willis. As soon as they got there, Willis – in accordance with the plan – took Kent off to a secluded spot where they were talking. Swallers joined them there. While she and Willis distracted Kent, Semenec came up and stabbed Kent in the neck with a knife, which was the first blow. When Kent asked for Puccio's help, Puccio stuck a knife in his stomach. Kent yelled out, "Marty, whatever I did, I'm sorry!", but Puccio continued to stab him. When Kent tried to flee, Puccio, Semenec, and Derek Kaufman tackled, stabbed, and beat him. Puccio then slit Kent's throat and hit his head against the ground. Kaufman then approached and hit Kent in the head with the baseball bat, which was the final blow. After this, Dzvirko, Semenec, Puccio, and Kaufman helped dump Kent's body on the edge of the shore of the marsh, in the belief that alligators would eat the decaying body.
A few days later, Dzvirko led Detective Frank Illaraza of the Broward County Sheriff's Office to Kent's body.
- Martin Puccio was charged with first-degree murder and was originally sentenced to death by electrocution on August 3, 1995. In 1997 the Supreme Court of Florida ruled that Puccio should not be executed, so his death sentence was overturned and instead he was sentenced to life in prison, with parole eligibility occurring in 25 years.
- Donald Semenec was sentenced to life plus 15 years imprisonment. Kent's murder had occurred on Semenec's 18th birthday.
- Derek Kaufman was sentenced to life plus 30 years imprisonment.
- Alice Willis was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment on May 31, 1995, but reduced on appeal to 17 years for the murder charge and 15 years for the conspiracy charge, and was released from secure custody on September 16, 2001; as of 2018, she is under community supervision. Her supervision will be terminated on September 15, 2041.
- Lisa Connelly was sentenced to life plus five years imprisonment, but reduced on appeal to 9 years, and was released from state custody on February 3, 2004.
- Derek Dzvirko was charged with second-degree murder, and was originally sentenced to seven years imprisonment on May 12, 1995, but received four extra years for trying to lie on the witness stand five days after his initial sentencing, and exited custody on October 1, 1999.
- Heather Swallers was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced to seven years imprisonment but, unlike Derek Dzvirko, did not attempt to lie on the witness stand on May 17, 1995. She also turned in evidence and was released on February 14, 1998.
Book and movie
The murder resulted in a best-selling true crime book in 1998, Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge (ISBN 0-380-72333-6), written by Jim Schutze. The book was adapted by David McKenna (credited under the pseudonym "Zachary Long" after he demanded his name be removed from the film) and Roger Pullis into the 2001 film, Bully, directed by Larry Clark. The story was also covered during an episode of the A&E series American Justice as well as Forensic Files, and more recently, Investigation Discovery's Murder Among Friends.
In the film, Puccio was portrayed by Brad Renfro, Kent was portrayed by Nick Stahl, Willis was portrayed by Bijou Phillips, Connelly was portrayed by Rachel Miner, Semenec was portrayed by Michael Pitt, Swallers was portrayed by Kelli Garner, Dzvirko was portrayed by Daniel Franzese, and Kaufman was portrayed by Leo Fitzpatrick.
- Schutze, Jim. Bully: Does Anyone Deserve to Die? HarperCollins, February 1, 1998. ISBN 0380723336, 9780380723331.
- Hernandez, Christina. "Woman Convicted in Broward Murder Talks". NBC6.com. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
- Schutze, p. 31. "Fred and Farah Kent (originally Khayam) had come to America and Florida in search of freedom and economic opportunity. Educated people, they did well quickly. Fred put himself through the rigorous training and licensing procedure[...]"
- Schutze, Jim. Bully. HarperCollinsPublishers. 1997. pp. 52–58, 61–62, 77, 104.
- "Puccio, Martin." Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 31, 2010.
- "A REPRIEVE FROM DEATH ROW SENTENCE REDUCED IN BOBBY KENT SLAYING IN WESTON." Miami Herald. November 21, 1997. 1A Front. Retrieved on August 31, 2010.
- "Raffo On 'moon,' Mckenna Off 'bully'" from The Hollywood Reporter, Friday, July 13 2001. Accessed September 22, 2008
- Hart, Hugh (July 12, 2001). "A Killing Time". LA Times.
- Bobby Kent at Find a Grave
- Decision on Appeal leading to vacating the Death Penalty.
- Richey, Warren. "Man, 22, Gets Life Sentence For Role In Kent Murder." Sun-Sentinel. June 13, 1995.