Digital Forensics Dispatch

Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Text Message Evidence Pivotal: Man Charged in Murder for Hire Plot, Killing His Own Father

October 25, 2022

The trial of Anthony Zottola has received plenty of coverage in sources like The Washington Post, New York Daily News and even Department of Justice Press Releases.

Anthony Zottola had been accused of hiring a hitman to kill his father, Sylvester Zottola. It is believed the younger Zottola hoped to take over his father’s substantial real estate business, thought to be worth tens of millions.

Prosecutors relied heavily on text messages recovered between Anthony and the contract killer, Bushawn Shelton. Shelton, also allegedly a member of the Bloods street gang, is thought to have orchestrated several attempts on the elder Zottola’s life before he was finally gunned down in a McDonalds drive through by one of Shelton’s associates.

In making their case, prosecutors pointed to a message from the associate to Shelton that simply read “Done.” This message was sent just after the shooting. They then introduced additional recovered text messages between Shelton and Anthony they believed to be coded discussions about payment for the killing. In the messages Shelton askes “Can we party today or tomorrow?” Zottola was said to have replied “I have the cases of water in a day or so”. Prosecutors claimed “cases of water” was code for the $200,000 price Zottola supposedly paid Shelton. Also discovered on the phone was a photo of $200,000 taken one day after the murder.

The jury in the case found Anthony Zottola guilty of both murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire conspiracy. He will face a mandatory life term when he is sentenced in the matter.

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