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"Sluggy"
Jun 13th, 2006, 09:47 AM
people with blue eyes: WEAR SUNGLASSES

rosecutor: He Killed Out of `Hatred of White People'


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (1010 WINS) -- A paralegal who was stabbed to death in a shopping mall garage where she parked every day was targeted by a homeless rapist who was planning a murder ``motivated by hatred,'' a prosecutor said Monday.

``Hatred of white people,'' said Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward.

Ward gave the opening statement in Westchester County Court at the trial of Phillip Grant, 44, who is accused of murder as a hate crime in the stabbing death of Concetta Russo-Carriero, 56.

She was killed at lunchtime last June 29 as she headed for her car in the parking garage of the Galleria mall, just a block from the courthouse.

``The defendant's perfect victim had just arrived,'' said Ward. ``Petite, sandy-haired, female and white.''

Defense attorney Eugene Traynor objected repeatedly and fruitlessly during Ward's remarks to the jury. He said in his own opening statement that police had arrested the wrong man.

``Nobody saw this murder,'' he told the jurors, noting that Grant was never positively identified by a witness.

The case has been widely publicized because it happened in daylight at one of the county's best-known malls; because Grant was bused by the county to downtown White Plains after spending the night at a homeless shelter; and because it spurred calls for a civil commitment law that could keep violent sex offenders off the streets even after their time is served.

Grant, who is black, was a convicted rapist who had completed his maximum sentence and had refused mental-health treatment offered at the shelters. Civil commitment bills are pending in the state Legislature.

The murder charge against Grant became a hate-crime charge after he told police he killed the woman because she was white.

``All I knew was she had blond hair and blue eyes and she had to die,'' he said in a videotaped statement that was played at a pretrial hearing. ``If I'd have had a gun today, there'd be a lot of dead white people on the streets of White Plains.''

The defense attorney warned the jurors that on the videotape, Grant ``does not come across as a savory character.'' But he said the tape is ``a completely unreliable mess'' and that some of the crimes Grant confessed to never happened.

``You're not going to be able to tell fact from fiction,'' Traynor said.


State Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler warned the jurors to resist the temptation to visit the nearby scene of the crime. He has also made sure they park elsewhere.

Ward said Grant, wielding a serrated steak knife, grabbed Russo-Carriero when she reached the seventh floor of the garage and forced her to walk the 100 feet to her car. The woman had left work after half a day because she had errands to run before a vacation, he said.

The prosecutor said Grant told her he wanted a ride to Connecticut, but he actually had ``one thought only on his mind at that time: to kill Connie.''

The victim ``summoned up her courage and with her last breaths screamed as loud as she could,'' Ward said, but Grant stabbed her twice, slicing through her heart.

One of the first witnesses, Laura Forbes, said she was heading out to lunch that day when she heard three screams ``filled with terror.''

``They were bloodcurdling,'' she said.

Russo-Carriero's husband, John Carriero, looked down at the floor of the gallery during the detailed description of his wife's death. He and their two sons are suing White Plains and the county, demanding $15 million in compensation for her suffering, death and ``pre-death terror.''

Grant was arrested within minutes of the attack, and told officers ``I'm guilty'' from the back of a squad car, Ward said.