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  1. #1
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    FOP

    SPRING HILL - SPRING HILL - Justina Altieri's story is rooted in tragedy.
    But it by no means defines her.
    It would be tempting to begin the story six years ago when her father was brutally stabbed to death before her eyes. At 12 years old, she was nearly killed when the attacker dragged her into the dark woods surrounding her home.
    That traumatic experience is certainly a significant milestone in her life. But it's what happened before that night and the events that followed that truly tell this story.
    The bridge between the two is Altieri's mother, Silvana.
    "No excuses" would be Mrs. Altieri's motto for the long rebound from the night of Dec. 11, 2001. Crying is accepted and welcome in the family. But she put her foot down early on when her two girls tried to get out of homework because they missed their father.
    She guarded her daughters against peer pressure; escaping the pain through drugs and alcohol was not an option.
    "What happened to this family was a tragedy," said Mrs. Altieri, 44. "But to have thrown in the towel would have been a travesty."
    Not that any of this is new.
    Mrs. Altieri's husband, Michael, was part of the team that built the foundations in Justina's life. Her patience, compassion and inner resolve were already there when Daniel L. Wingard rang the doorbell at 2 a.m.
    Still groggy with sleep, Michael Altieri went to the door and asked, "Who is it?"
    Their neighbor's boyfriend, Wingard, answered that there had been a bad accident involving their neighbor. When the door was opened, Wingard stepped forward and immediately began stabbing Mr. Altieri with a kitchen knife.
    The girls ran back to their room, their mother's screams ringing in their ears. Justina hid her 7-year-old sister in a closet, then went back to help her mother fight off Wingard.
    Her father lay in a spreading pool of blood by the door. Mrs. Altieri, who also had been stabbed, was chased out the door. Wingard came back, grabbed Justina by the hair and dragged her out the door. Mr. Altieri feebly tried to stop him.
    Wingard took her to the woods behind the house at 6344 Shalimar Ave. Headlights from a deputy's car cut through the darkness, briefly illuminating the killer. Justina bolted to safety. Wingard was dragged to the ground moments later by a police dog.
    Even in the most terrifying moment in her life, Justina kept her head and survived. She was able to draw a map and lead detectives to where Wingard buried the weapon.
    Those were dark times. The girls went to bed one night and woke up to a nightmare. They never returned to that house. Everything was taken for evidence anyway: the carpet, the chairs, the Christmas tree. The gruesome bloody scene shook up even the seasoned detectives.
    The girls coped in different ways. Mrs. Altieri would wake up at night to find her oldest daughter watching over her, just to make sure her mom was still there.
    Over time, they got more involved in school, made friends, took dance lessons. Focus shifted less on the past and more on the future. Then, Justina dropped a bombshell.
    Despite an early leaning towards teaching preschool, Justina, now 18, decided she wanted to be a homicide detective. Her inspiration came from the sheriff's detectives who helped her work through a tough time six years ago.
    For them, it was more than a job, she said. They were gentle in their depositions and calming during the trial that ultimately ended with four life sentences plus 30 years for Wingard.
    In the fall, Justina, a Central High School graduate, will take the first steps towards her goal at Pasco Hernando Community College. Scholarships from the sheriff's office, the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and other community businesses helped make it happen.
    She's confident her father will serve as her guardian angel in a job daily filled with danger. Mrs. Altieri would prefer her daughter take a post in a preschool, but she recognizes that this is Justina's way of saying "thank you."
    It's a triumph out of tragedy.
    "She worked very hard to get were she is," Mrs. Altieri said. "She's risen above it all."


    Reporter Kyle Martin can be reached at 352-544-5271 or kmartin@hernandotoday.com.

    Reader Comments
    Posted by ( epamela711 ) on July 2, 2008 at 8:47 a.m. ( Suggest removal )

    That family is an inspiration to us all. God Bless them all.

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  2. #2
    Guest
    Thanks for posting that article.

    God Bless the Family.

  3. #3
    Unregistered
    Guest
    This hurts to read, I was the neighbor, my mother was Daniels girlfriend at the time and the neighbors babysat me all the time, I'm 23 years old now. My names Colby, and even though I was young at the time it still hurts to remember this, the involvement my family had in it, I'm sorry for the pain and torment that this caused but I find peace in the fact that Daniel will never be out of jail and will rot there until the day he dies. I know it's not that easy for you, I'm so sorry and I can't express how truly sorry I am.

  4. #4
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    Foo

    Such a sad story but glad to see the community step in to help.

  5. #5
    Unregistered
    Guest
    Nobody cares. Move along. We're all meeting in 102's office, to watch little dik hard at work under the desk

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