Autopsy: Wife's Ills not Deathly in Visco's Case. The Volusia Medica; Examiner Said the Deltona Woman Shot to Death by her Husband Didn't Have Cancer
By Rich McKay of The Sentinel Staff. Purvette Bryant of the Sentinel
staff contributed to this report
Posted December 30, 2000
DELTONA -- The elderly Deltona woman shot to death this week by her husband wasn't terminally ill and may not have been in debilitating pain, Volusia County's medical examiner said Friday.
" We've been unable to demonstrate cancer or any terminal illness," Dr. Thomas Beaver said of his preliminary autopsy results on the body of Eva Visco, 74.
Her husband, Leo, 80, was charged with first-degree murder. He told authorities he shot his wife in the head Tuesday after she begged him to end her years of suffering.
Beaver determined that Eva Visco had some health problems including high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, as well as diverticulosis, which gave her abdominal pain. She also had ulcers on her legs that weren't healing quickly.
The 5-foot-4, 150-pound woman may have had pain in both knees, which had been replaced. And that may have limited her movement, but she "did not appear bedridden, " Beaver said.
Her medicines included blood-pressure medicine and some narcotic painkillers but nothing out of the ordinary for a woman her age, he said.
No one claimed that Eva Visco was dying, said Mark NeJame, an Orlando attorney who is representing Leo Visco.
"It's a quality-of-life issue," NeJame said. "Her perception was that she was in unbearable pain and that made life not worth living. To her, her pain was truly unbearable. A living torture. And her reality became Leo's reality. "
Neighbors said Leo Visco told them repeatedly that his wife had terminal cancer and that she wanted to die.
It was an account passed along to deputies who labeled the body with the words "terminal cancer," the medical examiner said.
Her children agreed that Eva Visco, 74, appeared to be nearly bedridden and suffering and that she often spoke of wanting to die. They sought help for her, but she refused.
Some neighbors seldom saw Eva Visco over the years, and only then perched in a chair.
Her son Michael Bono, from a previous marriage, called Leo Visco a saint for the way he took care of Eva.
On Tuesday, Leo Visco took the .22-caliber pistol he kept for protection and fatally wounded his wife of 24 years. He called 911 and surrendered to police.
Visco is in a Daytona Beach jail cell held without bail on the murder charge.
The State Attorney's Office has not revealed whether this case will wind up in court or if a plea bargain could be worked out. Visco could potentially face the death penalty or life in prison.
The lack of a terminal illness could make Visco's defense more difficult but not impossible, said attorney Bradley Stark of Miami, who represented Roswell Gilbert in appeals of his murder conviction.
Gilbert shot his wife of 51 years in their Fort Lauderdale condominium in 1985. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease and a painful bone condition.
A terminal illness is not key to the defense, he said.
"It ultimately has to do with her state of mind," Stark said. "And no one knows how much pain she was in, except her."
Stark said that Leo Visco might have plunged into a major depression, which made him act irrationally. But that doesn't mean he should go to prison. Stark said he would seek a plea bargain with the court for perhaps second-degree murder and leniency from a judge for house arrest.
" It comes down to what is the proper punishment," he said. "He doesn't need to go to jail."
Source: Orlando Sentinel