Before allegedly slaying the 29-year-old son of a well-known pizza shop owner in Ozone Park, the men charged with being involved in the 2009 murder had already botched another home invasion in the neighborhood and were on the lookout for some serious cash, one of those arrested in Gerardo “Jerry” Antoniello’s death said in court last week.
Jason Burrell, 40, of Brooklyn, testified at the Queens Supreme Court trial of Francis LaCorte, a 29-year-old Ozone Park resident, who is charged with recruiting a team of individuals to break into the home of Bartolomeo Antoniello, who owned Romeo’s Pizza in Ozone Park for 20 years until he died several months after his son was murdered.
Jerry Antoniello, who worked as a maintenance supervisor at Queens schools, was killed trying to defend his father during the September 2009 invasion, police said. He was shot in the head, according to police.
“They came running out of the house and drove off and said, ‘I think I killed somebody,’” said Burrell, who has also been charged in the crime and agreed to testify at LaCorte’s trial as part of a deal with the Queens DA. “He said the gun went off. The father had groceries and was trying to throw eggs at them to get out.”
Burrell has been convicted of crimes in the past, including petit larceny, he and prosecutors said.
LaCorte and Vincent Mineo, another 29-year-old resident from Ozone Park, were arrested last year and hit with a 22-count indictment, including second-degree murder, robbery and burglary.
Mineo copped a plea to burglary, attempted robbery and conspiracy earlier this year. Last week, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Also charged in the crime is Bronx resident Rashod Cowan, 32.
LaCorte, who prosecutors said owned a cell phone store across from Romeo’s, Mineo and their entourage of alleged criminals would frequently meet at the Dunkin’ Donuts at Crossbay and Rockaway boulevards to plan their next invasion. Not long before they hit Antoniello’s house, they had packed a pistol, BB gun and plastic ties and went to steal what they thought would be a large amount of cash from another Ozone Park home, but ended up leaving empty-handed.
Not long after that incident, Burrell said he met with LaCorte at one of the Ozone Park man’s two cell phone stores.
“He said he knew about another job, and said it was less money,” Burrell said in court. “He made it seem like he owed money and said we didn’t have to worry about people being there.”
Jerry Antoniello was the youngest of three sons, one of whom is an NYPD officer. He worked for the city Department of Education as an operating engineer at PS 127 in East Elmhurst and had recently saved up enough money to purchase a condominium near St. John’s University in Fresh Meadows.
Jerry Antoniello’s parents opened their pizzeria in 1992, when their youngest son was 12, and family members said he was always lending a hand at the business. He went on to be a maintenance supervisor at PS 65 in Ozone Park and then a facilities manager at PS 242 in Whitestone.
“Do I want to see those guys out on the streets again?” Angelo Antoniello, Jerry’s brother, said in the same previous interview. “Never. I want them to rot for forever in jail. If they died in jail, I’d be happy.”