Brother kills brother when they become love rivals for same woman
05/07/2018 4:17 pm PDT
Two brothers are in love with the same woman. And this all-in-the-family love triangle finally comes to an explosive showdown fueled by bad blood and fatal jealousy, leaving one of the brothers lying shot dead in a tragic, modern-day Cain and Abel murder.
A mother is gripped with fear as a man taps on her driver's side window with a gun, her small child in the car seat behind her. What happened in the next few minutes ripped a family apart and left a small Pennsylvania town in disbelief.
This tragic tale unfolded on the road to Damascus, a rustic little Pennsylvania township with a name straight out of the Bible.
"Damascus is a very rural farming community," Pennsylvania State Police Trooper John Decker tells Crime Watch Daily.
And in this case, "Cain and Abel" are local boys Joe and Tony Cilino. They are a pair of hardworking farmhands, and also close siblings -- until they became love rivals.
"There is always backstory to whatever happens, and in this case, this is something that started months at least before this actually occurred," said Trooper Decker.
Tony, 30, is the younger of the two brothers. He had been living with 22-year-old Brooke Swingle.
"Tony and Brooke met when Brooke was a teenager and Tony was in his mid-twenties," said WNEP-TV Anchor-Reporter Jim Hamill.
Initially the couple appeared to be happy, having a young son together named Niko.
"And Tony seemed to give her that sense of security, and things seemed to be going pretty good for a while," said Decker.
But the blush of young love would begin to fade.
"At some point that relationship went south," said Decker. "And as Brooke told me, it became abusive, verbally, somewhat physically."
Tony reportedly kept Brooke living like a prisoner in their own house.
"Brooke became very concerned with the amount that Tony was trying to control her," said Jim Hamill.
"He controlled literally every aspect of her life to the point where she wasn't allowed to work outside of the home, because he wouldn't let her," said First Assistant Wayne County District Attorney Deborah Rothenberg.
He ruled the roost with brute force.
"Brooke alleged a lot of actions that Tony had taken against her for reasons that she feared for her safety. He had threatened to punch her, he had threatened to kill himself previously," said Rothenberg. "He had put his fist through windows and doors."
Brooke claimed an unjustifiably jealous Tony was also tracking her movements and communications through their joint cellphone account.
"And I think Brooke ultimately had had enough," said Rothenberg.
Brooke finally left Tony, taking their little boy with her and filing an order of protection against him.
"And that, according to her, was really the only way she could feel safe again," said Trooper Decker.
But a friend had reportedly witnessed Tony flying into a frightening rage after the breakup.
"And he is yelling out in the parking lot obscenities about Brooke, and 'How could she take my kid away,' and that he's going to kill her, and he's going to kill whoever she's with," said Rothenberg.
But little does Tony know that a knight in shining armor has come to Brooke's rescue, and it's none other than his own big brother, 40-year-old Joe.
"He offered to help get her into a new place and get her back on her feet," said Decker. "And it ended up Brooke and Joe did develop a relationship together and began seeing each other after the relationship with Tony had ended."
Joe and Brooke had known each other for as long as she'd been with his little brother Tony.
"Joe was someone that made Brooke feel safe," said Decker. "He wasn't an unknown to her. He was someone that she already knew, and it was someone she didn't have to be scared for her son to be around."
But an obsessed Tony is fit to be tied when he happens to see pictures of them together, threatening to murder both Brooke and his brother in angry text messages he sent to James, one of Joe's friends, writing in one of them: "I'm going to kill him James. I have no choice"
Tony admits in another text to James: "My brother ... [----] ... My girl is killing me, man"
"Tony told people if he can't have her, then nobody else can have her," said Jim Hamill.
Especially his brother.
"And all the other people in Tony's life are trying to calm him down, are trying to say 'Tony, don't do this,'" said Decker.
And then it happens.
Joe and Brooke are driving along the road to her new home in Damascus with her little boy Niko in the car when they pass Tony driving the opposite direction.
"And Joe tells Brooke, 'Don't turn right, go straight' to avoid Tony Cilino," said Deborah Rothenberg.
Joe was hoping his brother didn't see him in the car with her.
"So Brooke takes the car, goes straight up the road and starts speeding up the road in an effort to get away from Tony," said Rothenberg.
But Tony is now hot on her wheels.
"So Joe tells Brooke 'Turn up this street,' and unfortunately for Brooke and Joe, it wasn't a street. It was a driveway that dead-ended at a house," said Rothenberg.
Tony has them boxed in.
"So when Brooke realizes we have to stop the car, Joe gets out of the car and runs into the woods," said Rothenberg.
He's hoping to avoid what he knows would be an ugly confrontation with his furious younger brother.
"When Tony pulled up behind Brooke, he got out of his truck. He came up to the driver's side door of Brooke's car," said Decker. "He already had a gun in his hand. Brooke could see the gun. She could hear the metal of the gun rapping on the window. Tony was ordering her to roll the window down and tell him what was going on between her and Joe."
But Brooke won't do it.
"She was scared for her life. She was scared for the life of Niko," said Decker.
Now Joe knows he has to do something.
"Joe then came out of the woods and came towards Tony to defend her, to protect her from Tony," said Trooper Decker.
And the brothers wrestle each other for the gun in what would be a battle to the death.
"She said that Joe was at the back of the car running towards Tony," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper John Decker.
Tony is in a jealous rage, armed with a .22-caliber pistol.
"And Tony turned, lifted up the gun and shot him," said Trooper Decker.
He hits Joe in the chest, but fails to stop him.
"Joe was able to come up and tackle Tony to protect Brooke and Niko inside the car," said Decker. "Blows are exchanged. Tony is pinned on the ground. As that scuffle goes on, Joe looks up at Brooke and says 'Get out of here, go call 911.'"
And she flees with baby Niko wrapped safely in her arms.
"A couple more gunshots were shot off and his brother just told me to call the cops."
Then police get another call from a friend of Theresa Cilino, the brothers' mother.
"She was screaming so all I said to her is 'I'm coming,' and I hung up the phone."
She says one of Theresa's two sons had just told her about the shooting.
"She's hysterical. She told me her one son killed her other son."
Among the first investigators at the crime scene is state Trooper John Decker.
"I was able to see some blood in the driveway in this area, kind of a general pooling," said Decker tells Crime Watch Daily. "Then there was a blood trail, kind of a speckled-type pattern that went along through here, up the driveway and then over to the house near the porch area."
That's where investigators would discover which brother had killed the other.
"And that was when we saw Joe on the porch with blood around his body," said Decker.
He finally succumbed to that gunshot Tony had fired into his chest.
"Joe was able to subdue Tony so that Brooke could get away, but because of the wound that he sustained, he lost strength and eventually Tony was able to get away from him," said Trooper Decker. "Joe, as his strength was leaving him, was able to drag himself onto the porch of that house, looking for help. He obviously didn't find help in time, and Joe died as a result of his wounds."
As for Tony, investigators would learn he'd immediately fled to his mother's home.
"And then she convinces Tony to turn himself in," said Assistant District Attorney Deborah Rothenberg.
Tony turned himself in less than two hours after the shooting.
"When Tony shows up at the police station, he's covered in blood," said Rothenberg.
And he allegedly confesses to a trooper.
"And it was at that point that Tony says, 'It got real bad. I shot my brother,'" said Trooper Decker.
The news of Joe Cilino's killing would bring even his tough farmer friends to tears.
"He helped me last night with my hay, and he left and that was it," said Joe's friend James Warnott.
And this little rural community would be shocked by the biblical proportions of the crime.
"This had those overtones from the Cain versus Abel story, where two brothers ended up one dying at the hand of the other. People would relate to that in some way and think how far bad things must have gotten, for one brother to take the life of the other," said Jim Hamill.
Tony Cilino went on trial for criminal homicide, or Murder Two, and other related charges. Prosecutors alleged Tony killed his brother Joe because of a fatal attraction to Brooke.
"I think Tony was absolutely obsessed with Brooke, and I think that the thought of his brother Joe or anyone else, was unbearable to him," said Rothenberg.
But Tony, who had allegedly admitted to police he'd shot his brother, now says at his trial that he's not sure he even pulled the trigger.
"He suspected the gun went off in the struggle somehow," said Deborah Rothenberg. "He also claimed at some point that if he did pull the trigger, it was self-defense."
And that it was his brother Joe who attacked him.
"And then their third defense was that if you didn't believe either of the other two, then he did this in the heat of passion, which would have taken the conviction from murder to manslaughter," said Rothenberg.
But prosecutors dismiss Tony's claims as a bunch of lies.
"Lies that didn't correspond with the physical evidence that was present in the case," said Rothenberg.
"The problem is that everything he said was a lie, and we knew that, and we were able to show that, I believe," said D.A. Robinson.
A jury found Tony Cilino guilty of third-degree murder. A judge sentenced him to 16 to 34 years behind bars for committing one of the oldest and most notorious of crimes.
"A story that's old as time. Cain and Abel. One brother kills another brother," said Trooper Decker. "There's no other word to describe it, but a tragedy."
And in another tragic twist, Tony Cilino was tipped off to his brother's location the night of his murder by their own mother. During the trial, Tony told the jury that he asked his mom where Joe was so they could go out and grab a beer together. Little did she know at the time she would be leading one son to his death, and another to prison.