Simon Property Group Responds
Boca Raton Councilman Peter Baronoff got a call Tuesday from a Simon Property Group Inc. executive a day after he criticized the company's response to the killings of a mother and daughter found at Town Center mall. Baronoff said the executive assured him the mall would pay for a planned video surveillance system, it would consider paying for added police presence at the mall and that it considers customer safety a top priority.
The council also officially approved the $350,000 reward for information in the killings and gave City Manager Leif Ahnell the discretion to post up to a $500,000 reward in this case or any other.
By ALEXANDRA CLOUGH
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2008
BOCA RATON - The Town Center mall, site of a shocking double murder in December, plans to survey its shoppers in the coming month to find out what changes, if any, they would like to see to the mall's security.
In his first interview since the Dec. 12 slaying of Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey, General Manager Joseph Cilia said the survey will cover a range of topics, but include specific questions about security and parking.
"Oh, definitely, parking is one part of the survey," he said.
Cilia said a survey company "is working on a lot of questions. Whatever the customers want, we want to make them feel more secure."
Among the changes possible: Moving the valet parking lots away from the mall entrances.
Politicians, shoppers and security experts say the paid valet lots take up too many parking spaces near five entrances, forcing shoppers who want free parking to walk to faraway spaces. They argue that the inherent dangers are particularly acute for mothers with small children.
Cilia acknowledged the valet lots "can be further out than they are now."
"But the further out they go, the longer our customers are waiting for their car," he said. "The queue lines can get very long."
Cilia's comments mark the first time since the Bochicchio slayings that the mall's general manager has reached out to the public to address its concerns about security at the popular shopping center.
The Bochicchios, of suburban Boca Raton, were found dead outside the Sears department store. They had been bound and shot, police said.
Cilia spoke two days after members of the Boca Raton City Council leveled harsh criticism at mall owner Simon Property Group for its muted response to the killings, which remain unsolved. Council members also blistered Simon for not explaining to the public quickly after the killings what it intends to do to improve security.
On Tuesday, members of the Bochicchio family filed what is expected to be a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the mall and Simon.
Last week, Simon made its first official comment about security, saying in a news release that it was installing a state-of-the-art surveillance system and building a police substation.
Cilia, the mall general manager, was careful Wednesday to limit his comments to the survey, which he said is regularly done to gauge shoppers' needs and desires. It will be conducted by asking people questions as they shop.
Councilwoman Susan Whelchel, who has been outspoken in her criticism of the mall, said Tuesday that she recently met with Cilia to discuss security.
Whelchel said she wants the mall to make the quick change everyone is talking about: Move the valet lots away from the entrances and allow more self-parking up front.
Security experts have suggested that the perimeter of the parking lot would be a better location for valet-parked cars.
Whelchel said Cilia also voiced concern to her about customers having to wait longer to get their cars if the valet lots are moved. But Whelchel said she's not concerned about that.
"I don't care how much time it takes. I don't care how far a valet runner has to run to get my car," Whelchel said. "Get the valet away from the front so moms and children can park there. When you go to Mizner Park, whether it takes three minutes or eight minutes, you wait for your car."
Last Update: 1/10 8:17 pm
Reported by: Paige Kornblue
One woman was abducted in August. She is still alive today.
A mother and daughter, Joey and Nancy Bochicchio, were found murdered inside their SUV in December.
The two crimes will be featured on America's Most Wanted Saturday night, January 12th, in hopes of catching the Bochiccio's killer.
Thursday, we spent time with John Turchin, the America's Most Wanted correspondent on the story, who recently sat down with the victim from the Town Center Mall attack reported in August.
He explains to us her story and shares only with Newschannel 5, new photos and video of Joey and Nancy Bochicchio.
An adorable little girl and a dedicted mother seen on home video.
Their case, their murders are now getting national attention.
On Saturday, Turchin and his team will show the home video and new pictures of Nancy and Joey. They will share this case and their story on America's Most Wanted.
It is a story that has torn at the hearts and flamed the fears of their family members and their community.
"On a typical Saturday night we have ten million people watching. That's 20 million eyes," says Turchin.
As editor Paul Waide put the finishing touches on the piece at his Apex Productions studio in Riviera Beach, Turchin told us what the August 7th Town Center Mall victim told him.
"She opens her door, starts her car, puts her child in his carseat in the backseat, goes to the back, pulls up the hatch, puts the stroller in, and as she goes back to her car... she looks up and sees this guy sitting next to her son in the backkseat with a gun to his head and basically... he slipped in (as she said in the first line to us) when she didn't even know it," says Turchin.
Using the August victim's account America's Most Wanted will re-enact what happened to her and what many believe happened to the Bochicchio's.
Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander will not say when forensic evidence will come back, when more information will be released, but he does say he is thrilled about the national exposure.
"Any attention is important to us right now. We want to increase the number of leads," says Alexander.
Leads this case still needs whether they come from in or out of state.
"Maybe they saw the guy in the parking lot but didn't pay any attention to it and now maybe they're in another state -- Alabama, Mississippi, New York -- and now see the sketch, they see some details about it, and they go 'that's the guy I saw," says Turchin.
America's Most Wanted plans to start the Saturday night show with the Bochiccio case. It will air at 9 o'clock Saturday night on FOX.
For more information you can log on to the America's Most Wanted and Crime Stoppers websites.
By Patty Pensa | South Florida
In the weeks since her sister, Nancy Bochicchio, and Bochicchio's young daughter were brutally killed, Bruno has shunned the spotlight.
But on Thursday she was motivated to speak out, mainly to keep the focus on finding the killer or killers who bound and shot her sister and 7-year-old niece, Joey, to death. Still, Bruno spoke to reporters on the condition that her face not be shown publicly because the killer has not been caught.
Along with her attorneys, Bruno expressed frustration and fear over security at Town Center at Boca Raton, the mall where Bochicchio and Joey were found Dec. 13 in Bochicchio's black SUV. Earlier this week, Bruno's attorneys filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Simon Property Group, the mall's owner.
"I want to make sure there's security for other people with children so no one has to go through what we've been through," said Bruno, dressed all in black, "so no one has to be tortured like my sister and Joey were."
Security at Town Center has become a central issue since the slayings, with city officials lashing out at mall officials for slow response to the crime. A police substation and surveillance cameras are planned for the mall, but Simon officials said those were in the works before the mother and daughter were killed.
In a letter to the editor sent to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Simon officials said they wanted to "set the record straight" about accusations of the mall's lack of interest in the crime.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," wrote John R. Gray, director of corporate security operations for Simon's southeast region.
Senior company officials came to the mall less than two hours after the Bochicchios' bodies were found. They met with the police chief and investigators. The mall also is willing to add $100,000 to the $350,000 reward the city is offering for information to help solve the crime.
Bruno's attorneys, though, were highly critical of the mall's handling of an Aug. 7 carjacking and abduction that police believe involved the same person who killed the Bochicchios. A 30-year-old mother was forced to withdraw money from a bank while her assailant held a gun to her 2-year-old son's head. Bochicchio and Joey also were forced to drive to an ATM to withdraw money.
"Something should have been done," said Bruno, choking up. "My sister and Joey would be here today."
Bochicchio surely would not have brought Joey to the mall if she had known about the August crime, Bruno said. America's Most Wanted will profile the August crime and the Bochicchios' killing Saturday at 9 p.m.on WFLX-Ch. 29.
Bruno hopes continued media coverage will prompt anyone with details about the crime to come forward. In the meantime, she and her family struggle to cope with the loss of Bochicchio and Joey. Bruno stops by the Bochicchios' home west of Boca Raton, where the Christmas tree is still up and Joey's presents remain.
"We can't touch them," she said. "Every day they say it gets easier but it doesn't. In our hearts, no one in my family can believe they're gone."
Patty Pensa can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6609.
By DIANNA SMITH
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2008
BOCA RATON - The Christmas tree still stands in the living room, draped in ornaments with perfectly wrapped presents beneath the tree - presents that Nancy Bochicchio and her 7-year-old daughter, Joey, had bought for their family just weeks before they were killed.
Family members wonder whether to take the tree down, but they don't. They think about moving the gifts, but they haven't. Their hearts say absolutely not, because that would mean that Nancy and Joey are gone.
"No one in our family can believe that they're gone. You can't imagine them gone," JoAnn Bruno, Nancy's sister, cried. "That's why it's so hard. We all believe they're coming back."
JoAnn Nancy Bruno is now speaking out so she can keep her sister's and niece's memories alive. Bruno, who has shied away from the media since the murders, is hoping she can help catch the man who bound and shot the pair to death at close range on Dec. 12. A security guard discovered their bodies in Bochicchio's idling SUV outside the Sears at the Town Center mall, hours after it closed.
Bruno sat grief-stricken in her attorney's Boca Raton office Thursday, her hands clasped tightly, letting go only when she needed tissues to wipe her tears. She asked not to show her face, and she bravely answered questions about the brutal deaths and the killer still on the loose.
"I promised my sister I wouldn't give up until this guy is caught. ... All I could think about is how Joey and my sister were tortured, they were tortured," she said, her voice trailing off. "I'm afraid. These men or man, he's still out there. You don't know what these people are thinking."
She's so afraid that she tries not to sleep because she has nightmares. She keeps the lights on all hours of the day and prays often to Nancy. She tells her family to move so they can be away from the danger and the chaos. She talks to mothers about the dangers of shopping by themselves and tells them to be careful if they're driving an SUV.
Bruno is working to establish a scholarship in Joey's name at her school, St. Jude Catholic School in suburban Boca Raton.
Earlier this week, Bruno's attorney filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against the owner of the Town Center mall, claiming lax security led to the deaths of the mother and daughter. Bruno said she and her sister often shopped at the mall and that her sister was Christmas shopping that night.
Attorney David Shiner repeatedly mentioned the August incident when a 30-year-old woman and her 2-year-old son were ambushed in the mall parking lot. A man held a gun to the boy's head and forced the woman to withdraw $600 from an ATM, her relatives said. Relatives also said the attacker bound her and forced her to wear goggles, just as sources said the killer did with the Bochicchios.
Details of the earlier crime weren't made public until after the Bochicchios were killed, and Bruno said that if her sister had known about that attack, she likely would have stopped shopping at that mall.
The August incident will be reenacted Saturday on the America's Most Wanted television show, Bruno said, and it will be compared to her sister's case.
Bruno called the attacker a serial killer.
"This man is not a human, he has to be an animal," she said. "This man did it for absolutely no reason. There is a killer out there. Something needs to be done about it."
As for lack of security at the mall, Bruno said that something should have been done in August.
"Why isn't there more security?" she asked. "The day after it happened to my sister and Joey, they had more cars, more security. Something should have been done (earlier). My sister and Joey might be here today."
But Bruno believes that in some way, they are still here. Watching. Comforting. Loving them from afar.
"I believe in signs," Bruno said. Nancy "gives me a lot of signs. She's with me all the time."
A few days ago, Bruno was thinking of Nancy, and as she stepped outside, she noticed the rain. A raindrop gently hit her check and Bruno cried. It was a kiss, she said, from Nancy.
Bruno was Joey's godmother, and the two were so close they even shared their own special day - Bruno's birthday on Jan. 2. Every year, the two had a tea party. Bruno used her best silver and played their favorite music.
Last week, on her birthday, Bruno still had the tea party and she put a teddy bear in Joey's place.
Bruno has met mothers whose children went to school with Joey. One said recently that she hears her daughter still playing with Joey. Though she knows Joey is in heaven, the little girl still talks to her and plays, just as they once did.
Everyone called Joey the miracle child because doctors told Nancy she couldn't have a baby, Bruno said. When Nancy became pregnant at 39, doctors said the baby could be deformed.
But Joey arrived perfectly. Ten fingers, 10 toes. A daughter she promised to always have by her side. To protect. And to love.
"Her life was Joey," Bruno said. "My sister lived to protect that child."
By MICHAEL LaFORGIA and GRETEL SARMIENTO
Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 11, 2008
BOCA RATON - In the days after security guards stumbled upon a ghastly double murder at the Town Center shopping center, the mall offered to contribute $100,000 to a $350,000 reward fund created to catch the killer, a senior mall official said Thursday.
However, the official said, "it was agreed to by the parties involved that it was prudent to allow the initial investigation to proceed ... before making any decision to increase the reward amount."
That agreement was outlined in a statement released Thursday in which John R. Gray, a regional security director of Simon Property Group, defended Town Center's response to finding a mother and her 7-year-old daughter shot to death on mall property. It came two days after the victims' family sued the mall, claiming negligence in the deaths of Nancy Bochicchio and Joey Bochicchio-Hauser.
On Dec. 12, Bochicchio and her daughter were found shot in the head in a 2007 Chrysler Aspen SUV idling near the Sears loading dock. Bochicchio had been forced to take money from an ATM, police said. She was bound and had goggles pulled over her head, a source said. Detectives suspect the killer committed a similar robbery at the mall in August but left those victims alive.
Two days after the Bochicchios were found, the city offered an unprecedented $350,000 reward for information leading to the killer. As that decision was being made, the mall, too, came forward to offer money, Gray said in his statement.
Police did not return calls for comment Thursday.
Gray said, "To this day, Town Center remains committed to providing these additional funds at whatever time it is determined that an increase in the reward will be helpful in the investigation." He went on to describe how mall officials reacted to the murders.
"Senior company officials were present at the site within two hours after the discovery to assist local mall management in the wake of this tragedy," Gray said. "They remained in Boca Raton over the following days to reinforce the mall's commitment to fully cooperate with the investigation, and to coordinate increased mall security and police presence at Town Center."
Reported by: Paige Kornblue
By John R. Gray |Gray is a former
special agent with the FBI, is director of corporate security operations
for Simon Property Group's Southeast region.
A lawsuit has been filed against Town Center at Boca Raton in Palm Beach County Circuit Court that we will vigorously defend against.
And, while we will not comment on the suit at this time, since the police investigation is ongoing and many details related to the deaths of Nancy and Joey Bochicchio are as yet unknown, we would like to provide the following statement about this very tragic crime that has affected our entire community.
We want to set the record straight regarding certain inaccurate public statements that were recently reported on by the media — and are now being repeated by attorneys for the plaintiffs — that accuse Town Center of a "lack of interest and responsibility" following this tragic event. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our verifiable actions are the extreme opposite of the picture being painted by some people whose comments are formed on the basis of either bad and misleading information or no information at all.
Our mall security officers discovered Ms. Bochicchio's SUV running in the parking lot near midnight on Wednesday, Dec. 12 after the mall had closed. When they approached the car, they discovered the crime and immediately called Boca Raton police, as they are trained to do. They also notified their superiors, and began working in cooperation with Boca Raton police to secure the area and provide any other assistance possible.
Senior company officials were present at the site within two hours after the discovery to assist local mall management in the wake of this tragedy and to meet with Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander and his investigative team. They remained in Boca Raton over the following days to reinforce the mall's commitment to fully cooperate with the investigation, and to coordinate increased mall security and police presence at Town Center, as well as other enhanced security measures.
Importantly, Town Center also offered to provide $100,000 toward a reward at the outset of the investigation. It was agreed to by the parties involved that it was prudent to allow the initial investigation to proceed with a $350,000 reward before making any decision to increase the reward amount. To this day, Town Center remains committed to providing these additional funds at whatever time it is determined that an increase in the reward will be helpful in the investigation.
A space within the mall dedicated for use by the Boca Raton Police Department, as well as a Boca Raton police community kiosk, have been in place at Town Center for the past three years. As part of a Terrace at Town Center lifestyle expansion that has been under development since the fall of 2006 and is scheduled for completion this spring, we are underwriting and constructing a new and expanded Boca Raton police substation that will replace the existing space and community kiosk. Design of the new lifestyle expansion also incorporates a new public safety office that will feature a monitoring facility for a state-of-the-art surveillance system, which will enhance the existing camera systems in place at the mall and which is being installed at no cost to the city of Boca Raton.
We want to salute the Boca Raton police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their arduous pursuit of this case, and we will continue to support their efforts to find the person or persons responsible for this terrible crime.
By GRETEL SARMIENTO
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 13, 2008
BOCA RATON — Simon Property Group, owner of Town Center mall, announced the creation of a public-private task force specifically aimed at ensuring public safety and crime prevention.
The announcement came exactly one month after the Dec. 12 killings of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and her daughter, Joey at the mall. Their bodies were discovered outside the Sears department store Dec. 13.
Since then there's been an ongoing debate on communication and security with some residents still questioning the response from city police and the mall. Last week, members of the Bochicchio family filed a lawsuit against the mall and Simon.
In recent days Simon Property officials have said they are willing to contribute to the $350,000 reward offered by the city. They also plan on surveying shoppers to find out what security measures they would like to be taken.
Now the company is extending an invitation to public officials, including City Manager Leif Ahnell and Police Chief Dan Alexander, to join the formation of this new strategy.
The task force would use current resources available in the community to improve the communication infrastructure as well as public awareness of the many ways residents can protect themselves.
"We feel that the blending of our resources with those of other businesses and the public sector will yield great dividends in the public safety arena," read the company's statement.
As the initial step toward the
task force's creation, John Rulli, executive vice president of Simon
Property Group and President of Simon Management Company and other Simon
executives, including experts in federal and local law enforcement,
plan to travel to Boca Raton the week of January 14 to visit with several
key public officials.
By KEVIN DEUTSCH
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 13, 2008
UPDATED: 1:16 a.m. January 13, 2008
What sort of man binds a woman at the neck with a plastic tie, robs her, pulls goggles over her head and shoots her and her 7-year-old daughter at point-blank range?
What kind of job, relationships and habits does he have?
At the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., profilers are asking those questions, trying to figure out what makes the Town Center mall killer tick.
The bureau's Behavioral Science Unit, a small, highly trained cadre of agents skilled in analyzing criminal minds, is looking at what the killer's victims have in common, why they were targeted and why the killer chose to prey on them at a particular time of day at the mall in Boca Raton. They try to find what an offender says about himself by the crimes he commits.
The agents, informally known as profilers, are likely poring over details of the binding used by the attacker and his method of attack. They are examining why, as police believe, he used some of the same methods in August in the kidnapping of a mother and her 2-year-old son, also in a parking area at the mall, four months before the Dec. 12 killings of Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and her daughter, Joey.
The answers to those questions, when coupled with forensic evidence and other information gathered by police, could paint a portrait of the gunman who binds his victims.
While agents still in the unit are barred from speaking about open cases, retired FBI profiler Mark Safarik, a 23-year veteran of the bureau, discussed the kind of work profilers are likely doing in the Bochicchio case.
"It's an integration of the forensic and the behavioral components, and then assessing what is going on here and what it tells us about him," said Safarik, who worked with the unit on high-profile cases such as that of Robert Yates, who confessed to 13 killings in a plea deal with Spokane County prosecutors in Washington state and was convicted of killing two women in Pierce County, Wash. "You start narrowing down your suspect pool into people who might fit this personality type."
When the phone rings at the Behavioral Science Unit, it's a safe bet the caller on the other end has a grim story to tell. Investigators from all over the world dial up the unit for help and advice when leads in their criminal cases turn cold or fray into infinite and troubling possibilities.
A profiler, in general, is a seasoned FBI investigator with an analytical mind, a keen understanding of psychology and human behavior, and a wealth of experience in working cases.
Some critics of the unit have called the practice of profiling into question, claiming it oversimplifies highly complex elements of crimes and criminals.
The unit deals with analysis of criminal minds at "the extreme end of human behavior," Safarik said. The cases usually involve criminals who exhibit unusual or exceptionally violent behavior.
Preference is given to active serial-murder cases and kidnappings. Cases are typically assigned to one agent, who may consult with colleagues, Safarik said.
Exactly one month ago, the Bochicchios were found shortly after midnight bound and shot in a sport utility vehicle parked outside Sears at the Town Center mall. Police have been unable to find their killer despite a $350,000 reward, hundreds of leads and several segments on Fox's America's Most Wanted, including one that aired Saturday.
The Aug. 7 carjacking and kidnapping and the December killings shared several disturbing links: Both started at the Town Center mall; both involved a mother and child held at gunpoint; both women were forced to go to an ATM; and victims were bound in both robberies.
In the August case, the victim was robbed of $600, tied up at gunpoint and blindfolded (possibly with a pair of goggles, one relative said.
On Dec. 12, a gunman confronted Bochicchio and her daughter at the mall, forced the woman to withdraw money from an ATM and secured her at the neck with a plastic tie strip, binding her and pulling goggles over her face, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.
If both women's eyes were covered, profilers will try to determine whether the use of goggles or another object constitutes a "signature."
The signature is a ritual, something the subject does for emotional satisfaction but is not necessary to perpetrate the crime. It is a way of linking cases.
Safarik said there have been a number of cases in which people are bound and their heads covered with items that include clothing, blindfolds and tape.
"We've seen this kind of thing before," he said.
John Douglas, a pioneer in the field of profiling who spent 25 years with the FBI, has written extensively about killers and conducted face-to-face interviews with Charles Manson, David Berkowitz (the notorious "Son of Sam" killer) and other violent serial criminals. Douglas believes a killer evolves and gets better at committing crimes the longer he eludes authorities.
"Like everyone else, a killer learns from experience," Douglas writes in an article on his Web site. "If you don't catch him right away, he'll begin to develop his modus operandi, or MO, and probably get better at the crime.
"Maybe he'll find a more efficient way to kill someone or a quicker way to abduct a woman from a car. He'll start showing more control over the crime."
The modus operandi is the way the criminal commits the crime - if he uses a gun rather than a knife or lures prospective victims by putting his arm in a fake sling, Douglas explains.
The signature gives investigators insight into why he did things a certain way.
"One subject covered the faces of his victims. That was his signature. So you look for that in other cases in order to tie them together," Douglas writes. "A bomber used to spray black paint over the components inside his bombs. It wasn't necessary - it didn't make the bombs any better. I don't know what it meant, but he did it anyway. He felt the need to do it."
The FBI unit will share its profile of the Bochicchios' killer with Boca Raton police.
"The cops are looking at this, asking, 'What's driving him? What does it mean?' " former profiler Safarik said. "They're looking for another law enforcement tool. They want to know if they're on the right investigative path."
Police spokeswoman Sandra Boonenberg said last week that the department had consulted with the FBI unit.
Boca Police Chief Dan Alexander
has called the killer "evil." He urges the public to call
police at (561) 338-1234 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at (800) 458-TIPS
(8477) with any information.