Home > Court, Courts, Upper Moreland > Davisville Road Resident Sentenced for Manslaughter

Davisville Road Resident Sentenced for Manslaughter

By Keith Phucas
The Public Spirit

Thomas Craig Bellezza

An Upper Moreland man jealous of his ex-girlfriend’s new friend was sentenced to prison Friday for fatally beating the boyfriend with a baseball bat outside the woman’s home last year.

Thomas Craig Bellezza, 51, of Davisville Road, pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Court in December to involuntary manslaughter, terroristic threats and possessing an instrument of crime in connection with the death of 53-year-old Robert “Rusty” Masten on Feb. 9, 2010.

Before sentencing, Bellezza’s defense lawyer, A. Charles Peruto Jr., asked Judge William J. Furber Jr. to consider the fact that Masten first wielded the wooden bat that snowy night before his client wrestled it away from him and delivered the deadly blow.

“We have to ask, if not for the bat, we might not be here,” Perutto said. “The bat changed everything.”

But after after considering the case and a report on Bellezza’s background, Furber reasoned that the defendant’s decision to use the victim’s bat as a weapon was a grave mistake.

“This is a tragedy,” the judge said. “But when one analyzes it, it is one that could have been avoided.”

Furber sentenced Bellezza to a total of 51 months to 12 years behind bars for the three counts. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Rebecca Strubel and John Walko.

Masten’s sisters, Deborah McDonald and Lenore Sellman, and a niece, Tara Nash, read victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing Friday afternoon.

Nash, a nurse who works in Abington Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, said her uncle sustained multiple skull fractures during the violent assault.

“This was a horrible way to die,” she said.

According to prosecutors, Bellezza drove to his former girlfriend Denise DeMino’s Horsham home that night and after confronting Masten outside, beat him with the bat.

According to one witness, the defendant struck the victim while he was on the ground with a “wood chopping” overhead blow.

When police arrived at the scene, Bellezza told them, “I took the bat from him and hit him” and told police the problem between him and Masten “was over a girl,” according to the criminal complaint. Bellezza had blood on his jacket, pants, shoes and hands and a bat lay on the ground near the bleeding man.

DeMino told authorities that she had been trying to distance herself from Bellezza for about a month and that Bellezza was jealous about her relationship with Masten, who DeMino described as a friend.

At around 5:30 p.m., Masten and DeMino had dinner at her home. During the evening, the woman ignored incoming calls from Bellezza, who left a voice message just before 9 p.m. saying, “Hello, I’m sorry. But I’m finished being disrespected by you. You’re a disrespectful person the way you treated me. And now it’s my turn to disrespect you. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

Later, after Masten spoke on the phone with Bellezza, DeMino asked Masten to leave the house to avoid any trouble. Before leaving, Masten told DeMino he kept a bat in his pickup truck and would defend himself against the former boyfriend, according to court papers.

At 10:16 p.m., Bellezza left a more ominous phone message for DeMino: “Hey Denise. It’s Tom. It’s quarter after 10. It’s snowing. Don’t get too comfortable.”

Bellezza then drove to the MacIntosh Court residence, parked his truck and sat in the vehicle waiting about 10 minutes for Masten to come outside, authorities said. DeMino first became aware of the assault when she heard Bellezza yelling outside her home and called 911.

The defendant told detectives that he believed he was hit by the bat during the struggle with Masten, when they both fell to the ground. Bellezza said he wrestled the bat away from Masten, and the men got back on their feet before he swung the bat at the other man.

However, witnesses claimed Masten was struck while lying on the ground, according to court papers.

Prior to sentencing, Walko argued that the defendant made many bad choices that night. And clubbing the man on the back of head had fatal consequences.

“Of all the choices he made that night, this was the worse,” Walko said.

Republished with the permission of The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle

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