On May 13th, the Connecticut House voted to abolish the death penalty. Currently, 10 men sit in the prisons of our state awaiting execution. Below is part one in an occasional series telling the stories of the men whose fate now rest in the hands of the state Senate and governor.
Todd Rizzo used to be a babysitter. Violet Boisvert, one of the women Todd used to baby-sit for told a panel of judges that she never felt uncomfortable having him watch her kids or take them to the park. “He was very good to my children,” she recalled in 2005. Boisvert’s children became so fond of Todd that they began to call themselves the “Todd Squad.”1 To Boisvert and the other parents he came to know, Todd was just the average affectionate and trustworthy high school student. After one day in the fall of 1997, they would see Todd in a different light.
On September 30, 1997, Todd convinced a thirteen year old boy named Stanley Edwards IV to come into his backyard to hunt snakes. Once inside the yard, Todd proceeded to hit the boy 13 times with a 3-pound sledgehammer. When he was apprehended for the crime, the recently discharged Marine told police he wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.1
Todd Joseph Rizzo was born on October 11, 1978. Perhaps Todd’s finest biographer is himself, for he provides a brief overview of a life cut short by crime on a website dedicated to death row inmates. “I was born in ’78 in Virginia but was raised in Connecticut. I’m a middle child of divorced parents: an Irish and English mother, a Sicilian father. I have completed a dozen years of education and had me a stint in the military after that. I am really into piercings and tattoos; I had seven of the former and have a large one of the latter.” 2
On the same website, which was last updated in June 2003, Todd lists his favorite bands as the hard rock acts Korn and Godsmack. But tattoos and metal were not always Todd’s interests. Perrin Markan, a childhood friend of Todd’s, testified that his friend had changed since there days of hanging out in middle school. During his junior year, Markan recalled, Todd dyed his hair black, watched violent movies, and developed an interest in serial killers. “I was hoping it was just a phase he would let go as time went on so I didn’t really make a big deal about it,” Markay told a journalist in 2003.1
In a 2005 article in the Waterbury Republican-American, a friend told the paper Todd thought that his fascination with killing would be subsided by serving in the Marines. It is logical to suggest the Marines, who train new recruits to be killing machines in the name of national defense, only enhanced Todd’s desire to kill. In July of 1997, in a scene one could picture in a Hollywood war movie, Todd and his fellow soldiers sat up one night on base wondering whether they could actually kill someone as they had been trained to do. John Fleischer, one of the Marines there that night, received a letter from Todd several weeks after the murder. The letter, which was used during Todd’s trial, read: “Well, let’s say, you might be reading about me one day. Just add me to your long list of famous killers, like Jeffrey Dahmer, Mr. John Gacy, Henry Lucas, and so on. Yes, from the news article inclosed (sic), you’ll learned (sic), I’ve been arrested for murdering a 13 yr old boy. I beat the backside of his skull in with a sledgehammer in my backyard and dropped his body on a side road w/his head wrapped in a plastic bag. So way back in July, when me, you, Jones and Sims talked about the truth if we could actually kill another person? Well, I did. That knocks off number two on my goal list.”3
Todd was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in August 1999. In 2003, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the ruling on the grounds that the judge in his first trial did not issue proper instructions to the jury. He has since been returned to death row and, under Connecticut’s current law, is scheduled to die by way of lethal injection.
In April 2000, FOX 61’s Shelly Sindland conducted a revealing interview with Todd. Asked what the killing the boy was like, Todd explained: “When he got hit, it was like, taking a sip of beer and letting out air, like he got the wind knocked out of him. He turned around and spun around like a windmill. It was pitch black. I never saw myself killing him. It was pitch black.” He told Sindland he also smelt the boys blood for a “whole month.”3
Todd concluded his letter to Fleischer: “I am sorry for what I’ve done, because my life is now over. Im (sic) either facing life in prison with no parroll (sic) or the death sentence which in CT is lethal injection. Anyway, now that my life is through, How’s your’s doing?”3