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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Anthony Giancola: From Teacher to Cocaine-Crazed Spree Killer

     Anthony (Tony) Giancola, as a student at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, Florida just south of St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, showed a lot of promise. He played football, was class president and had the lead role in the school play, South Pacific. Although accepted for admission at West Point, he attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

      Mr. Giancola began his teaching career in 1991 at the Dorothy Thomas Exceptional Center, a K-12 school for at-risk children with special needs. By 2005 he was head of the school. In the summer of 2006, Pinellas School District administrators made Tony Giancola principal at the Van Buren Middle School in Tampa. Although he made $90,000 a year, he had a $100-a-day cocaine habit. In February 2007, the principal purchased cocaine, in his school office, from an undercover narcotics officer. After the drug transaction the officer arrested Giancola and searched his car where he found marijuana and two glass pipes containing traces of cocaine. The narcotics arrest ended Mr. Giancola's education career and led to a year in jail followed by three years of probation.

     In 2009, Tony Giancola's wife divorced him, and a year later, in St. Petersburg, police arrested him as he sat in his car at three in the morning. He was charged with violating his probation, prowling and loitering. At this point in his life Mr. Giancola was a mere shadow of his former self and living on the fringes of society.

     On Friday, June 22, 2012, at 10:45 AM in Lealman, Florida, a Pinellas County town 20 miles west of Tampa, Tony Giancola walked into a group home and stabbed 27-year-old Justin Vandenburgh who died at the scene. Next, he stabbed Mary Allis, 59, who would die later that day at a local hospital. Giancola, using the same knife, attacked 25-year-old Whitney Gilber, and Janice Rhoden, 44. These women survived their stab wounds.

     After stabbing four people at the group home, Giancola drove to nearby Pinellas Park, and at the Kenvin's Motel, attacked the man and woman who ran the place with a hammer. The married 57-year-olds were taken to the hospital and treated for serious injuries. Both of these victims, however, survived.

     At 11:30 on the morning of the Kenvin's Motel rampage, Tony Giancola pulled his Ford sedan up to a house in Penellas Park and asked a group of people sitting on the front porch where he could meet a prostitute. When they told him to get lost, he plowed his car into the porch, injuring three women and a man. A witness at the scene took down the license number to his car.

     As Giancola drove from the hit and run scene he struck a 13-year-old boy riding a bicycle. Kole Price, who received minor injuries from the collision, was struck again by Giancola who was intentionally trying to run him down. The boy found protection behind a telephone pole.

      After trying to kill the boy on the bicycle, Giancola drove to a nearby Egg Plotter restaurant where he called his mother. Shortly after the call she and his sister put the blood-covered Giancola into their car and drove him to the mother's house. When Giancola climbed into the car he said, "You'll be proud of me, I just killed 10 drug dealers."

     When Tony Giancola and the two women arrived at his mother's house, she called the sheriff's office. But before deputies arrived at the dwelling he was gone. A short time later police officers found Giancola hiding in a clump of brush next to a canal in St. Petersburg.

     In the course of Giancola's crime spree, the former school principal had stabbed four people, killing two of them. He attacked the two motel operators with a hammer, injured four people on the porch and ran over a boy on a bicycle. The Pinellas County prosecutor charged Tony Giancola with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and several counts of aggravated assault. If convicted as charged he faced the death penalty.

     Other than being high on cocaine, investigators don't know why Giancola attacked these eleven people. There was nothing connecting the groups of victims to each other, or to Giancola. Police believed the murders and assaults were spontaneous and random.

     In September 2013, to avoid death by lethal injection, Anthony Giancola was allowed to plead guilty as charged. The judge sentenced him to several life sentences, terms to run consecutively.


  1. He clearly has mental illness, that should be considered

  2. I had an encounter with him in 2010. He was super nice, very upfront with all of his prior issues and trying to move forward. You never know what's going on upstairs.