A jury of nine women and three men found Cordova insurance agent Joe Caronna guilty of first degree murder of killing his wife Tina Caronna in October 2008.
The jurors returned a guilty verdict after 85 minutes of deliberation after receiving the case Thursday afternoon.
"It's a good relief to know that he's guilty," said Todd Gray, Tina Caronna's son. "That feel like it's been lifted off our shoulders and we finally got justice. It's been long enough."
Four years ago to the day, murder victim Ms. Caronna was buried with a headstone displaying her maiden name of Murphy. Now her mother Clara Murphy was in a courtroom hoping a jury would certify what she's believed all along: that Joe Caronna is guilty of killing her daughter.
"I could shout. I wanted to shout. If the judge had said we could I would have hollered, ‘Hallelujah!'," said Murphy, who adds she felt as if her daughter was with her in the courtroom during the entire trial. "I mean, I even looked up one time and it was just like her presence was there, like, ‘Mom, don't worry. Don't worry about me. I'm okay.' I just had a good feeling about it."
After Gray testified for five minutes as a prosecution rebuttal witness, the jury heard two hours of closing arguments from the State and defense.
To the outside world Joe and Tina Caronna looked as if they were living the American Dream. But, as Shelby County prosecutors alleged for the last 11 days, not even his wife knew the Cordova insurance agent and financial adviser was "living a lie."
In their final summations on Thursday, prosecutors Karen Cook and Tom Henderson told jurors Joe Caronna had a clear motive for murdering his wife Oct. 25, 2008. Caronna knew the couple was in no financial position to close on a new $440,000 house in Fayette County his wife thought they were going to buy.
"That motive was the result of the lies he'd built, because of his financial obligations he would not be able to close on that house like Tina was expecting on Monday," said Cook, Shelby County Assistant District Attorney.
Prosecutor Henderson dubbed Caronna "The Flim-Flam Man" in reference to being able to con his wife, his mistresses and his investment clients.
Cook accused the Cordova insurance salesman of taking advantage of friendships to feather his own nest at their expense.
"Mr. Black invested money so he could have a college fund for his grandson and he (Caronna) stole the money," Cook said. "Mr. Roper, in his retirement age, trying to live the best he can and he (Caronna) stole from an elderly man!"
But, with his client facing life in prison if convicted Caronna's attorney, Public Defender Rusty White, launched into a massive 90-minute summation telling jurors Caronna's character, or lack of it, shouldn't sway their decision.
"What your job is not to decide if he's a thief or a bad husband," White said. "Did he kill his wife? That is the sole issue before you."
White hammered away at the investigation handled by Bartlett police accusing them of ignoring a "ton of evidence." He disputed the timeline prosecutors laid out as to when Caronna would have committed his wife's murder. White referred to defense witnesses who claim to have seen Tina in the couple's black 2005 Chevy Avalanche drive out alone the morning of the murder, the defense claiming it was the last time she'd ever be seen alive again.
"She pulled her car out and she saw the truck backed out and Tina Caronna in the driver's seat," White said. "They (her neighbor and Tina) waved and had words and Tina waved her on. The truck pulled out, backed out, and left and it never came back."
During the moments before the case went to the jury, Caronna's face ran a gamut of emotion from near tears when his attorney referred to his love for Tina, to almost a bemused look when referred to by prosecutors as the "Flim Flam Man."
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