But that was three years ago. And with no trial date in sight, Snavely’s lawyer has now filed a motion to dismiss the case, backed up by a raft of newly released police reports to support his contention that Del Brocco, 60, was alive when Snavely last saw him, and that Del Brocco picked up a second man later the same night who killed him.
“The best evidence shows,” said H. Dohn Williams, Snavely’s lawyer, “that Mr. Snavely was one of Mr. Del Brocco’s many young companions, both that day and in the past, and he did not kill Mr. Del Brocco.”
Snavely’s DNA was found on the rim of a Coke can in the trash of Del Brocco’s Pompano Beach townhouse, where he often traveled on weekends, and his fingerprints were on the outside of Del Brocco’s newly washed Porsche, court records show. When Snavely, now 29, was first arrested in July 2013, he denied knowing Del Brocco or ever being in his home. Two months later he told detectives he had been in Del Brocco’s home the night of the slaying, but had left with Del Brocco and that the two had parted without incident, newly filed police reports show.
Williams’s motion to dismiss the case against Snavely is set for a Dec. 2 hearing in Broward County Circuit Court, but both Williams and Assistant Broward District Attorney Will Sinclair said the hearing will not happen because of scheduling conflicts and the need for further briefs. If the case is not dismissed, a trial for Snavely likely will not occur until the summer of 2017, nearly seven years after Del Brocco’s death.
Sandra Bain, a longtime friend of Del Brocco’s from Alexandria, said she and her husband, Jackson Bain, were “disappointed that the prosecutor has not brought this case to trial.” She noted that Broward authorities have “a suspect who lied to them about his involvement at first, and later admitted he was at our friend’s house that evening, and DNA evidence from the suspect was at the murder scene. To us nonprofessionals, this evidence indicates he was the last person to see Sam alive.”
The case has been delayed in part by Snavely repeatedly switching lawyers, from private attorneys to public defenders and now back to Williams, who is court-appointed. Sinclair also noted that in Florida, the defense is entitled to take depositions of the prosecution witnesses, which has been ongoing but tends to take a lot of time. “It’s not unusual,” Sinclair said of the years between arrest and trial. “Everything varies depending on the complexity of the case.”
In addition, the Florida Supreme Court has shown an inclination to overturn guilty verdicts from juries in murder cases where the evidence was mainly circumstantial. The court ruled in 1982 that “where the only proof of guilt is circumstantial, no matter how strongly the evidence may suggest guilt, a conviction cannot be sustained unless the evidence is inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence.”
And Snavely’s lawyer has plenty of hypotheses.
Del Brocco was the co-founder and co-owner of PCI Communications in Alexandria, a public relations business with clients such as Fannie Mae and the Washington Nationals. He also spent time buying and selling real estate around Northern Virginia and in South Florida, where he grew up. In the spring of 2010, he bought an eight-bedroom, $1.1 million house in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County and an $850,000 townhouse in a gated community in Pompano Beach and began renovating them, with regular trips to Fort Lauderdale, police learned.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2010, Del Brocco flew to Fort Lauderdale and went to his townhouse. Records show he had his Porsche Carrera cleaned at a carwash at about 3 p.m. in Pompano Beach, and had dinner at a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale about 8 p.m. Using cellphone records, Broward sheriff’s deputies tracked Del Brocco’s movements back to Pompano Beach around 9 p.m., then returning to Fort Lauderdale sometime after 10 p.m., where a drug dealer told them he sold Del Brocco crack and marijuana four times throughout the night. Del Brocco then returned to Pompano around 11:25 p.m., with his last outgoing call at 12:06 a.m.
Longtime friend Carlos Larraz from Maryland could not find Del Brocco the following day and asked police to check on him. Sheriff’s deputies found his body in a pool of blood in his second-floor bedroom. He had been stabbed several times in the chest and back and had no defensive wounds, police reports show. Both of his cellphones and his laptop were gone and have never been found.
Detectives learned that Del Brocco was a frequent visitor to Fort Lauderdale gay strip clubs and they found dancers he had hired to come to his home in the past. Many of Del Brocco’s friends in the D.C. area said they did not know he was gay. But the police could not find anyone who remembered seeing Del Brocco on his final night. An unknown DNA sample on a Coke can, and the unknown fingerprints on the Porsche, were investigators’ best hopes.
Then in July 2013, Snavely was arrested for drug possession. His DNA was entered into the national database, and days later, it matched the DNA from the Del Brocco home, as did his fingerprints. Snavely was not a match to the DNA from hair on the presumed murder weapon, a bloody butcher knife found stashed under a rug, nor on a marijuana joint in Del Brocco’s bedroom. But bloody footprints tracking away from Del Brocco’s body were close in size to Snavely’s, police records show.
Snavely was arrested and charged with second-degree murder that month. Detectives say they believe Del Brocco met Snavely at a strip club and convinced him to come back to his townhouse. Snavely, with a history of violent behavior and drug arrests, told police that he would sometimes perform private dances for men but leave before sexual activity occurred, a police affidavit stated.
But Snavely “could give no explanation as to how or why his DNA would be on the crime scene,” Detective John W. Curcio wrote. He added, “Snavely seemed to question himself about whether or not he could have been involved in the victim’s death and not remember it due to drug use.”
Two months later, when Curcio went back to obtain hair and fingerprints, Snavely said he wanted to talk again. This time, he admitted being in Del Brocco’s home and accurately described its interior, but said he and Del Brocco left after about 90 minutes without incident. “The two trips to Fort Lauderdale,” Williams argued in his motion to dismiss, “are consistent with two rendezvous with two different men . . . There are statements and circumstantial evidence that he was at the victim’s house and touched Del Brocco’s car. But this proof must lead to more than suspicion and conjecture.”
Greg Czarnecki, a childhood friend of Del Brocco’s from Florida, said the delay was frustrating. “I want justice for Sam,” Czarnecki said. “It’s unfortunate the wheels of justice have taken this long. I remain hopeful the case will be brought to trial. It’s been a long time.”