Sam Del Brocco lived multiple lives. He was a singer, a businessman, and a real estate investor with a gift for transforming houses as he’d transformed himself. Three years ago, that all came to an end in Pompano Beach, Fla., where police now say he was stabbed to death.
Police this week announced an arrest and possible motive in Del Brocco’s slaying, which had been a mystery since the 60-year-old Alexandria executive was found dead on a Sunday night in September 2010. John Snavely, 26, a pornographic film performer and exotic dancer, was charged with second-degree murder.
Police said they think the two met the weekend of Del Brocco’s death and returned to a beachside home he owned in South Florida. At some point things turned violent, possibly after a dispute about money, police said.
The break in the case came as welcome news to Del Brocco’s friends in both Virginia and Florida, who had offered thousands of dollars for information about the case.
“It’s something that’s been open, and it’s hard to feel that we could move beyond it without any arrest,” said Bob Sprague, Del Brocco’s longtime friend and business partner.
In the end, police said, DNA evidence led them to Snavely. In June, according to Miami Beach police, two officers stopped Snavely after he allegedly drove by them smelling strongly of marijuana. He did not have a driver’s license; he did have pot, steroids and a pair of brass knuckles, according to the arrest report. Although he was not convicted in that case, it led to a warrant for violation of probation on a drug charge in nearby St. Lucie County. Authorities said a sample of his DNA was taken and that it matched evidence from the murder scene.
Like Del Brocco, Snavely lived by the water, but his home was in run-down apartments in Miami. Broward County homicide detective John Curcio said Snavely told police he had never met Del Brocco nor been in his home.
“It’s technology saying Mr. Snavely is not telling the truth,” Curcio said.
Attempts to reach Snavely’s family were unsuccessful, and it was unclear whether he has an attorney.
Police have said that evidence was found on all three floors of Del Brocco’s home. Jackson Bain, a close friend and former news anchor, said his understanding from talking to police was that there had been a brutal fight.
“It was such a violent and unnecessary crime that it shocked us all,” Bain said.
Snavely has a history of run-ins with the law. He is wanted in Texas for violation of probation on assault charges and has been arrested multiple times on drug possession charges, according to police records.
During the investigation, police have said that Del Brocco might have met his attacker at a gay bar.
Del Brocco started his career as a school psychologist with dreams of music stardom, Sprague said. In the 1970s he hired Sprague as a keyboardist in his band, the Sammy Del Brocco Show. The group never took off, but he and Sprague found success in marketing. Del Brocco encouraged their firm, PCI Communications, to do pro bono work for homeless shelters and other local charities. Del Brocco also had a longtime girlfriend.
Friends say he was generous with his money, his time and his emotional support.
“He was so admirable in so many ways,” Bain said. “An incredibly creative person. He was an artist.”