*~ December, 2008 -- Page 2 ~*
One year later, Boca Raton
Town Center mall murder victims Joey and Nancy Bochicchio remembered
By Jerome Burdi |South Florida
WEST BOCA - Joey's Christmas presents still are waiting beneath the tree.
They've sat, untouched, for a year in the house that is now a shrine to the slain girl, Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, and her mother, Nancy Bochicchio, 47. Both were shot to death.
A year after their bodies were found in their SUV — in a parking lot at Town Center mall in Boca Raton, friends and family still are seeking answers. Joey's aunt, JoAnn Bruno, prays that one day her 7-year-old niece will reappear to claim her gifts.
The bodies were found around midnight Dec. 12, 2007. Their house is a memorial now, just as they left it that day. Bruno hopes to wake up from the nightmare, and she prays that police find who murdered her "angels."
Police say they've completed 89 percent of the leads they've developed and have spent more than $15,000 on advanced forensic testing. But nothing substantial has come of it so far. No motive. No suspects. There's still a $350,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killer.
To Bruno and her husband, Stanley Bruno, the slow pace of the investigation offers no comfort. JoAnn Bruno does find some solace by going to Joey's room and holding her toys; in going into her younger sister's closet hoping to catch her lingering scent.
The Christmas tree and decorations from last year festoon the Bochicchio house west of Boca Raton, almost as a reminder of a holiday that can't come this year.
"[Joey] should be here getting presents from Santa, not having [memorial] Masses," Bruno said. "It's just not the right thing for a child, or my sister."
The two were Christmas shopping at the mall hours before they were found, tied up and shot, in their black SUV. Goggles covered their eyes.
"And Joey was scared of the dark," Bruno said, weeping.
Joey's gift from her mom, a set of golf clubs in a pink leather bag, was in the back of the SUV. Golf was Joey's new passion, pink her favorite color. Her room is awash in it. Bruno can't bring herself to change a thing in the house where the Bochicchios lived since February 2000.
"It would be like tossing them away," she said.
Nancy and JoAnn grew up in the Bronx, N.Y., and were close though they were 12 years apart. They moved here about 13 years ago. The sisters went to concerts together, spent holidays together and talked every day.
Three days before the murders, Bruno said, she was shopping with her sister and niece at Annie Sez, a clothing store west of Boca Raton. Joey was pulling outfits off the racks and bringing them to her aunt to try on. The little girl was singing and dancing, full of vigor. When they were done, they got ice cream and then said goodbye, and Bruno and the Bochicchios went their separate ways.
The last time Bruno saw them, Bochicchio and Joey were blowing her kisses through the window of the SUV, the same car where they were found dead days later.
Bruno now sits next to the Christmas tree with tears in her eyes.
"They were my angels," she said.
Jerome Burdi can be reached at
jburdi@SunSentinel.com or 561-243-6531.
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- On the one-year anniversary that the bodies of Nancy and Joey Bochicchio were found outside the Town Center at Boca Raton, the crime still resonates for the people who live and work nearby.
It was Dec. 12, 2007, that 47-year-old Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey, were found bound with plastic ties and shot to death inside their sport utility vehicle in the parking lot of the mall.
Neighbor Hank Matthews said it's almost as if the little girl and mother who once lived next door to him should come home.
"It's hard living here looking at that house and knowing that these two innocent people will never come home again," Matthews said. "…Joey was just a sweet little girl, and she was just so full of life and love."
Surveillance video showed the two exiting the Town Center hours before a security guard discovered their bodies.
Boca Raton police still have no motive or suspect in their killings.
"I work right here at the bank, so I feel scared to go to the mall," Michele Johnson said. "I come locally to go eat, and if I come to the mall I come with my husband."
"You certainly don't expect something like that here in Boca," Alex Pool said. "I actually work not too far from here, so everybody was kind of disturbed about it in my office."
The killings garnered the attention of "America's Most Wanted," but while police said they have followed up on 89 percent of the leads, they have still come up short.
"It just breaks my heart," Matthews said.
Matthews said it took him 11 months to go back to the Town Center, and now he is waiting for justice.
"I just wish they would catch this guy and give him what he deserves because there was no need -- no need whatsoever -- to kill those two beautiful people," Matthews said.
A $350,000 reward is being offered for information leading authorities to their killer.
By Brian Haas |South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Leads dwindle. The tip lines have stopped ringing. And time is not on the side of the homicide detectives.
On the anniversary of one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases in South Florida history, the investigation into the slayings of Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter Joey is at a crossroads.
Police have burned through almost all 1,600 leads in the case. They've spent $15,000 in advanced forensic testing. A $350,000 reward remains unclaimed. And a Dec. 4 news conference to drum up interest produced no significant new tips.
The results: no suspects and a lot of frustration.
"I think it has impacted us emotionally," Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said. "I was actually talking to one of our tactical sergeants. He still carries a picture of Nancy and Joey in his vehicle. We all carry this case every day."
The shocking murder of the 47-year-old mother and her daughter in the Town Center mall parking lot drew international attention. But that hasn't produced results.
Homicide experts say time complicates efforts to solve the case. With each passing day, memories grow fuzzier, suspects move on.
"The first three days basically let you know whether or not you're going to have a case that's workable," said Vernon Geberth, retired New York police commanding officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, author of Practical Homicide Investigation and a consultant on homicide cases.
"There's a good possibility the offender has left the area," he said. "And if the offender left the area, this is going to frustrate the investigation."
Everyone agrees the case still could be solved. Alexander hinted the agency is looking at "various people." Geberth said the fact that police have forensic evidence is heartening.
That's what Bochicchio's family needs to hear.
"When the guy is caught, brought to justice, then everybody will be happy," said David Shiner, an attorney representing the family. "Every day that passes, people will think more and more that this is turning into a cold case. At this point in time, there's still a lot of hope."
Just after midnight on Dec. 12, 2007, security personnel at the Town Center at Boca Raton found a Chrysler Aspen SUV idling in the Sears parking lot. Inside, police found Bochicchio and her daughter, shot dead. Both had been bound with plastic ties and handcuffs and forced to wear blacked-out swim goggles.
Detectives later discovered the two had been abducted, taken to an automatic teller machine and forced to take out $500.
A similar abduction and robbery on Aug. 7, 2007, in the Town Center parking lot now has been linked to the murders. Alexander said forensic evidence pointed toward the same suspect in both cases. He declined to say whether the evidence included DNA.
In the Aug. 7 robbery, a woman and her 2-year-old daughter were forced to withdraw money from an ATM, bound and then left — alive — in the mall parking lot.
A year later, investigators have exhausted almost 90 percent of their leads in the Bochicchio case, spent more than 9,000 man hours and sought help from local, state and federal law enforcement and private consultants. Criminal profilers have tried to get inside the murderer's head, though investigators won't describe the profiles they've developed.
Two potential breaks in the case never fully materialized.
Two homeless men found Bochicchio's purse and cell phone in Miami, but questioning failed to lead to arrests.
A young man who looked like a sketch of the suspect was arrested in May at the Aventura Mall. Police let the man go free when the victim from the Aug. 7 robbery did not pick him out of a police lineup.
Alexander acknowledged that the remaining leads are less promising.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-458-8477.
Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
Brian Haas can be reached at bhaas@SunSentinel.com or 561-243-6633.