2nd suspect arrested in murders of Barbara, Phillip Russo

By Roger Lohse, Reporter, rlohse@Local10.com
Barbara A. Besteni, Managing Editor, Local10.com, barb@local10.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:25:11 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 09 2013 05:45:24 AM EST
DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. -

Barbara, Phil Russo The two men accused of killing an elderly couple in Deerfield Beach made their first appearance in court Friday afternoon.

The Broward Sheriff's Office on Thursday arrested 60-year-old Rosario Melici of Lake Worth. Investigators said he knew the victims, Barbara Russo, 78, and her husband, Phillip Russo, 88 (pictured, right).

On Friday morning, detectives announced the arrest of a second suspect, 38-year-old Michael Marotta, Melici's tenant.

Both suspects were booked into the Broward County Jail early Friday morning and charged with murder.

According to the arrest report, Melici and Marotta (pictured, below) have both admitted to "active participation in the robbery and murder" of the victims.

Deputies arrested Melici on Thursday, with the help of the U.S. Marshals and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, at a Lake Worth Walgreens near his home on E Street.

Melici told detectives that he was with Marotta during the double murders. Marotta initially denied involvement, but later admitted that he was with Melici and participated in the killings, according to the arrest report.

But despite the evidence against them, those close to them claim cops got the wrong guys.

These people are innocent," said Dawn Stroller. "There is a real killer out there right now and it's not the boys they took."

Stroller said she and Marotta, her fiancé, rent the efficiency behind Melici's Lake Worth home. She said Melici used to be married to one of the Russos' relatives in New York and that he and Marotta went to Deerfield on Monday, hoping the elderly couple might help them find work.

Detectives say the elderly couple was tied up with blue painter's tape and stabbed to death. The gold necklaces and rings they normally wore were missing.

Melici's DNA was reportedly found on the blue tape and detectives say they found several swords and knives at his home. It's unclear, however, if the actual murder weapon has been recovered.

"I can tell you this is not a random act of violence. This heinous and reprehensible crime -- the Russos were targeted," said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.

"It's breaking my heart," Stroller said. "I'm losing my life right now because of this. I feel for the family. I really do. But go get the guy that did it."

Friends of the couple who live at their Deerfield Beach apartment complex said they are relieved.

"We are very relieved," said neighbor Diane Dichiara. "We just feel very bad, still, for what those poor people went through."

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