Prosecutors will use past crimes in Musso murder trial

Dustin Musso
Dustin Musso

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The man accused of killing and burning his own grandfather had to face other members of his family in court Monday, and they were not happy.

Dustin Musso's past could come back to haunt him.

Musso, 30, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his grandfather, Pete Musso, 76, in 2009.

Pete Musso was killed in his Baton Rouge home in May 2009. Dustin Musso is suspected of killing his grandfather, setting the house on fire and then taking a bus to Alabama. According to the victim's granddaughter, Pete Musso took in his grandson to live with him.

Pete Musso lived at a home on Glenda Drive in Baton Rouge, where a fire started around 3:40 a.m. on May 5, 2009. The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office said he experienced some sort of trauma to the head, which is why police began investigating it as a murder.

Dustin Musso was taken into custody at a bus station in Montgomery, AL, the same morning as the murder and fire. He was initially charged with felony theft, but the charges were later upgraded. In September 2009, a Baton Rouge grand jury indicted him for first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces life in prison. The death penalty has been taken off the table.

The trial is set to begin in December. Prem Burns is the prosecutor for the case. Attorney Lance Unglesby is Musso's lawyer.

Musso had the unenviable task of having to sit on the defendant's side of the courtroom and hear his own father testify against him. At the end of the day it was a big win for the state.

Prosecutor Prem Burns left nothing to chance in a pretrial hearing to determine whether the state can introduce evidence from past crimes when prosecuting Musso for the murder of his grandfather. She pointed to a 2007 issue in Virginia, when Dustin Musso talked of killing his father and grandfather, then the detective and judge on the case.

"I felt it was better to bring down the detective that had been threatened, the prosecutor, to bring in the family members and really lay it out for the court to have a very clear record," said Burns.

Musso would end up in a Virginia jail in 2007. Two years later he was back in Louisiana and was accused of killing his grandfather Pete then setting him and the house on fire.

Dustin Musso's father took the stand Monday and testified that he felt his son was gunning for him in 2009, after Grandfather Pete was killed. He told the judge that his son threatened to kill him and his wife and burn down the house in 2007.

"It's hard but you know he whacked my dad," said Musso's father after the hearing.

Dustin' s step mother also testified about how Dustin planned to kill her as well. "I thought he was teasing, said Cindy Musso. " I thought he was mad. Again, I said quit saying that Dustin. He said 'mom, I love you' and he hugged me, 'but I have to kill you'."

"It's hard. I mean he is my son and I love him -- you know but hey -- done with him. I was waiting for him to get to Virginia -- I know he was on his way but no, he just -- we wouldn't be going through this today," said Musso's father Pete Musso III.

Defense Attorney Lance Unglesby also lost a bid to toss out a previous confession by his client. He knows it will be a tough trial.

"This is part of his life, and however this ends up, he wants to be respected and treated like a human being," said Unglesby. When asked if Musso wanted to be treated like a human being, like the way he treated his grandfather, Unglesby responded "Well you know that will be decided in December by a jury. Right now he's innocent."

The trial is set for December 2, 2013.

Prosecutor Prem Burns also plans to bring a Virginia judge to Louisiana for the trial. Musso was convicted of threatening to kill that judge in 2007.

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