Though Broward County sheriff’s detectives recovered the murder weapon, fingerprints and DNA from the scene, they had no suspects until they connected with John “Champ” Snavely, a star of gay porn films and a dancer in gay clubs in the Fort Lauderdale area. Snavely’s DNA was on a Coke can in the trash of Del Brocco’s apartment and his fingerprints were on the outside of Del Brocco’s car. At first, Snavely denied knowing Del Brocco or being in his townhouse. In a second interview, he admitted being in the home but said he and Del Brocco left after about 90 minutes and peacefully parted ways.
Snavely’s defense lawyer, H. Dohn Williams, pointed out that DNA from hair on the knife used to kill Del Brocco was not Snavely’s, that DNA on a partially smoked marijuana joint was not Snavely’s, that bloody shoe prints in the house did not match Snavely, and that DNA and fingerprints in Del Brocco’s car came from someone else.
Williams filed a motion to dismiss the case, citing Florida case law which holds that circumstantial evidence cases “cannot be sustained unless the evidence is inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis of innocence.” Williams cited the movement of Del Brocco’s cell phone to indicate that he went to Fort Lauderdale, then to the Pompano townhouse, then made a second trip to Fort Lauderdale where he may have picked up a second man whose DNA was on the murder weapon. Williams also suggested that Del Brocco was in the process of ending a relationship with a man in Northern Virginia who stood to inherit half of Del Brocco’s estate, and that man had a motive to kill Del Brocco.
Broward Circuit Court Judge Ilona M. Holmes held a hearing in December on Williams’ motion to dismiss, to which she noted Broward prosecutors did not file a written response. Homes wrote that she was “mindful that a sworn motion to dismiss should rarely be granted and granted only when the facts and inferences…do not establish a prima facie [“on its face"] case.”
Though courts in many states might allow prosecutors to at least present the evidence to a jury, Florida allows its judges to take a hard look at a case before trial. And for the murder charge against Snavely, Holmes concluded, “This evidence is not enough.”
She noted that “there are no eyewitnesses to the crime, the murder weapon was recovered with someone else’s hair and DNA on it. Shoe prints with victim’s blood were never matched to this defendant. Defendant has never confessed to committing this crime and no one has come forward attesting to any suspicious activity on Defendant’s part.”
In addition to Snavely’s DNA on the Coke can and his fingerprints on the outside of Del Brocco’s car, Broward assistant state’s attorney Will Sinclair pointed to the video of detectives interviewing Snavely in July 2013 where he exhibited “fits of rage,” and that Del Brocco’s gruesome murder was “a crime of rage.” Holmes said she could not “infer defendant’s guilt by his demeanor at the end of the four-hour DVD of his interview with the police.”
In dismissing the case Thursday, Holmes gave Broward prosecutors 15 days to appeal. Sinclair did not return calls seeking comment. Snavely remains in the Broward County jail.
Williams said Friday that “I think it’s obvious by Mr. Del Brocco’s movements that night, he had two visitors. John Snavely had admitted being a visitor, but not the last visitor.” He said that “the incriminating evidence against him is in the garbage can in the kitchen,” and that Del Brocco was “a neat freak. I can see the Coke can being immediately put away, and if you look at the crime scene photos, after the second visitor there are two bottles on the kitchen counter, and the marijuana cigarette in the bedroom. And of course, there’s the unexplained DNA on the murder weapon.”
Williams said it took three years to get to the dismissal stage because Snavely’s previous lawyers had not spent much time critically analyzing the evidence, and that when he took over the case there were further delays because he had other murder cases to try. He said he did not know whether Broward prosecutors would appeal, but “I’m hoping they don’t. Theoretically they could, but they have to ask themselves, ‘Do we really have a probable likelihood of a conviction?'”