If there’s one thing James “Skip” Scandirito never missed, it was a tee time, Assistant State Attorney Emily Walters told the 15-person jury as the trial into his death began Friday morning.
On Easter Sunday, the 74-year-old was supposed to play golf with his friend, Gary Goodin. After he didn’t come home the night before to watch the men’s Final Four college basketball tournament and wasn’t answering phone calls, Goodin told Scandirito’s son, James Scandirito II, that he was calling police to report his friend missing.
The former Michigan judge’s body later was found decomposing at an abandoned golf course in Boca Raton, and his son was arrested.
The trial of James Scandirito II, 49, began Friday before Circuit Judge Laura Johnson after three days of jury selection. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death and dismemberment of his father.
Skip Scandirito’s torso and other body parts were found inside garbage bags buried at the former Ocean Breeze Golf Club, police said.
To this day, his head has not been found, Walters told the jury.
Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey told the jury her client, who she called “Jimmy,” did not kill his father. Instead, it was an alleged night of drinking and drugs that may have caused the elder Scandirito to collapse in his Boca Raton home.
Skip Scandirito had previously had a heart attack and triple-bypass surgery and had missed a tee time days before his death because he wasn’t feeling well, Ramsey said.
After his father collapsed, Jimmy was worried what would happen when police showed up and there was marijuana and prescription drugs in the home, she said. So he disposed of his father’s body.
“He made some very poor choices in this case. Horrific choices, grizzly choices, that he regrets,” Ramsey said. “Those poor decisions do not mean murder.”
In the days before the decomposing body was found, investigators said the younger Scandirito used his father’s credit cards to buy duct tape, garbage bags and a hand truck from Home Depot. When those items were found in Skip Scandiritio’s garage, police found the 74-year-old man’s blood on them.
Under police surveillance after his father’s disappearance, James Scandirito II visited the abandoned golf course off Yamato Road without anything and left with a suitcase containing clothing and what was later determined to be human remains. Police watched him throw the items away in a trash bin and then leave the area in his Toyota Prius.
Law enforcement later stopped him and found a Brazilian passport, a U.S. passport and a handwritten itinerary for the Dominican Republic in his possession. Walters told the jury that investigators later discovered internet searches for countries that do not extradite to the United States.
Walters said James Scandirito II’s actions in the days between March 29 and his arrest April 10 show what kind of man he was.
“A man who methodically planned out his action. A man who killed his father. A man who did everything he possibly could to cover it up and try and get away with it,” Walters said.
How Skip Scandirito died is still unknown. The medical examiner who oversaw the autopsy ruled the manner of death was homicide and the cause of death was homicide by unspecified means.
Walters said the medical examiner will testify that in the thousands of autopsies the office has performed, “a dismemberment has never been anything but a homicide.”
Ramsey argued that the medical evidence will point to signs of heart issues, but nothing that points to homicide.
She told the jury the medical examiner ruled homicide because of “post-death circumstances.” She said there were no broken items found in the home, no evidence of weapons and no injuries on James Scandirito II.
Goodin, Skip Scandirito’s friend, took the stand Friday. He said he thought it wasn’t like his friend, who he had known since second grade, to text him like he did the day before they were supposed to watch basketball. The text said the elder Scandirito planned to kayak with a “new lady” and that Goodin should just let himself into the house. Goodin said they didn’t often text each other; mainly they talked on the phone.
Goodin went to the home and waited inside for his friend. Instead, James Scandirito II arrived. They were all supposed to watch the Michigan-Loyola Chicago game together, but the elder Scandirito did not arrive. Goodin said the men ordered a pizza, tried calling Skip Scandirito to no answer, then went to bed.
When they woke in the morning, there was still no sign of the 74-year-old. Goodin said that’s when he told Scandirito’s son he was calling the police.