Landlord found guilty of molesting three sisters

Author: Colleen Jenkins
Date Published: 06/17/2005

A Pasco County jury convicted Gary Sabino on Thursday evening of sexually molesting three young sisters, ensuring that the former Holiday resident will spend the rest of his life in prison.

But his trips to the courtroom aren’t over yet: Sabino still has an unrelated lewd and lascivious molestation charge involving another Pasco child pending against him.

The five women and one man who found 47-year-old Sabino guilty on two counts each of capital sexual battery involving a child under 12 and lewd and lascivious molestation didn’t know about the unrelated charge. But it was the experience of that girl, a 9-year-old whose family member was renting an apartment from Sabino, that led to the discovery of his abuses of the three sisters, Assistant State Attorney Eva Vergos said after the trial Thursday.

The victims and their father had become friendly with Sabino after the family moved to New Port Richey. The blond, fair-skinned girls – then ages 6, 8 and 10 – soon began spending nights alone with the man nicknamed “Sparky.”

They watched movies, played hide-and-go-seek and enjoyed a swing set Sabino installed for them in his back yard. On Sunday mornings, he brought them to St. Gregory’s Russian Orthodox Church in Tampa.

But, the girls testified this week, he also used his fingers and tongue to touch them inappropriately on their genitals. The girls didn’t tell anyone until January 2003 – one year after the abuse – when their father learned about the other alleged victim and began questioning his own daughters.

During his closing argument Thursday, Sabino’s attorney, Paul Firmani, said he wasn’t asking jurors to accuse the young girls – now 8, 10 and 12 – of lying about the molestation.

“You can believe that those girls truly believe what they said up on that stand,” the veteran assistant public defender said. “But you can also believe they were mistaken.”

As he did Monday during his opening statement, Firmani reminded jurors how innocent actions were twisted into evil by a few girls during the Salem witch trials.

“This isn’t the Salem witch trials,” Vergos countered. “This is about three little girls who trusted somebody, who cared about him, who loved him. Why would these girls come up with this?”

Authorities first arrested Sabino in January 2003 on the unrelated molestation case, but he was released after posting bail. Before they could arrest him in the case of the three sisters, he fled to a Blanco, Texas, monastery formerly connected with the Russian Orthodox Church. FBI agents and Pasco sheriff’s Detective Jim Gariepy found him hiding there under an assumed name in October.

On Thursday, jurors – including a Publix meat worker, an accountant and a father of three – deliberated for about 50 minutes.

The capital sexual battery conviction comes with a mandatory life prison sentence. Because these arrests are his first, Sabino is entitled to a presentence investigation. Circuit Judge Joe Bulone will sentence him Aug. 5.