Divorce Case Takes a Shocking Turn

Julie Porzio can't look into a mirror without thinking of the day she almost died. She has a scar on her face that's a daily reminder.

"I really truly believe it's a miracle I am alive," she said. "You know, my kids don't really know what happened. My 5-year-old, unfortunately, is starting to hear things from other people, so … I had to tell her."

Porzio is a mother of two active and beautiful young girls and a divorce lawyer in Waterbury, Conn. She had to tell her oldest of two daughters that someone shot her in cold blood, and all she was doing was her job.

Her profession nearly cost Porzio her life, the result of a case she took in 2003 that she knew from the beginning might be difficult.

"When clients describe their spouses as 'controlling' and, um, 'resistant to financial contributions to her future, or their future,' then I, I know that it's gonna be somewhat of a concern," she said.

She had seen her share of confrontational, explosive cases, but nothing prepared her for Bochicchio vs. Bochicchio.

Porzio's client was 42-year-old Donna Bochicchio, also a mother of two. Donna's husband, Michael Bochicchio, was a retired Connecticut state trooper. The divorce was contentious from the start, with battles over everything from their children to the house, sex and money.

Donna told her friends that she was afraid of her husband, and began making secret recordings of Michael's threats, particularly about money.

"So help me God, I will never pay you money, no matter what happens in this divorce," Michael said in one recording.

As the trial progressed, the judge sent the Bochicchios to mediation to try to work out a settlement. After a morning of talks, Michael Bochicchio finally agreed to settle and the details were worked out. But by the afternoon, all bets were off.

"Mr. Bochicchio says, 'Oh, I could never…No, I could never agree to that, Judge. Never.'" Julie recalled.

Michael's gambling losses were a huge part of the case, and Julie had gotten him to testify candidly about both his losses and his winnings, which he never reported to the IRS. The judge in the case thought Michael might have committed tax evasion, and advised him to show up at the next court date -- June 15, 2005 -- with an attorney. That morning, Julie and her client decided to drive to the Middletown, Conn., courthouse together.

As they drove to court, Julie and Donna were readying for the final days of the trial. What they didn't know at the time was that Michael Bochiccio had other plans.

As they entered the parking lot next to the courthouse -- Julie driving, Donna in the passenger seat -- Michael was waiting in his mini-van.

'I Know I Am Hurt'

The former state trooper then began pulling the trigger of his 40-caliber Glock handgun.

"And then, um … and then I know I am hurt," Porzio said. "I don't know that I hear bullets. I don't know what it is that happens next, but I know I am hurt."

"I don't hear anything from Donna," she said. "I don't hear a cry. I don't hear a yell — nothing. And then … and I hear nothing from him, not a word, just a dark, dark stare. I think the first bullet came across my face and injured me. It hit my … the rear corner of my eye. And literally cut my ear right in half."

Porzio says she remembers falling to the center console of the car, wondering what was happening. She also says she knew that her face was bleeding.

"And, and I remember a light coming to me — a very bright light all around me — and I felt like somebody was putting their hand on my head, and somebody said, 'Julie, it's gonna be OK. Just don't move. Just don't move,'" she said.

The voices that may have saved her life were imaginary. But the bullets were real and four of them hit her.

"I thought he was standing over me &30133; waiting to blow my head off," she said. "And I thought, 'That's it, I am dead.'"

'Perfectly Still'

Porzio remembers that she looked over and saw Donna.

"She was laying there. And she was just so … still, perfectly still. And her hair — she had long, beautiful brown, dark hair — it was like across my lap. And I remember thinking, 'Maybe she is OK.'"

Donna Bochicchio was not OK. Four bullets had killed her instantly. Husband Michael Bochicchio would be pronounced dead that night at the hospital — he had saved the last bullet for himself.

In addition to the bullet that barely missed Porzio's brain, another smashed into her shoulder and ricocheted off a bone into her chest. A third bullet entered her arm, and the fourth slammed into her wrist, shattering her hand. Doctors told her that any one of shots could easily have killed her, as the four before them killed her friend and client Donna.

But what of the man who did this, Michael Bochicchio? What kind of man could kill his wife and himself and leave his children without parents?

Psychiatrist Laura McMahon didn't know the Bochicchios, but has seen similar cases where the husband couldn't bear losing control of his wife.

"He is going to control her to the end," said McMahon. "And the ultimate control is killing her. … And now he's also attached to her for life. If you ever think about her, you have to think about how she was killed. So, he will forever be connected to her."

McMahon suggested that on that tragic morning, not only was Michael Bochicchio facing possible felony charges, but he was agonizing over the reality that he would soon lose his wife.

"It's a total win game," McMahon said. "This was very planned. They go over it in their mind, over and over, 'I'm going to get her. How am I going to get her? How can I plan it?'"

Warning Signs

Porzio says there were "red flags" that she wasn't aware of. She was stunned to find out that just two weeks before the shooting, Michael Bochicchio had flashed a bogus badge and tried to enter court with a gun.

Julie's attorney, Joe Tacopina, says Bochicchio should have been arrested for impersonating an officer and his gun should have been seized.

"It was a retired badge," said Tacopina, "but he flashed his tin and said, 'I'm on official business,' and tried to walk past the metal detectors."

Tacopina thinks perhaps the court marshals let Michael go because he was a former law enforcement officer.

"I can't think of any other reason, because he was falsely impersonating an officer," Tacopina said. "He was carrying a loaded gun into a courthouse where he was a litigant. What did they think he was going to do?"

And according to Porzio, the marshals never told the judge about the incident.

"As inexplicable as that sounds, they never told the judge and they never told the trial counsel," she said.

Tacopina said that five other times Michael Bochicchio tried to get other prohibited items into the court, including a knife, and that the marshals at the courthouse never reported any of the incidents.

Julie's Law

Porzio believes that if proper precautions had been taken, Donna Bochicchio might be alive today.

"These are the kinds of cases where the murderer announces himself before … the murder ever happens," said McMahon. "How easy can it get? And why do we nothing?"

Porzio is suing the state of Connecticut on the grounds that the marshals didn't do their jobs. The state denies responsibility for her injuries.

Porzio is also fighting to try to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. She's spearheaded a law in the state legislature that would provide for a $5 million upgrade of courtroom security, including more and better trained marshals. They're calling it Julie's Law.

Meanwhile, she continues the painful rehab on her wrist and hand that were all but destroyed. After 10 surgeries to insert dozens of pins, and bone and skin grafts, Porzio is just beginning to regain some function in her hand.

She's become less afraid every day, but she still hasn't returned to the Middletown court and can't watch and TV or movies with gun violence. She's continued her legal practice, but chooses clients very carefully. And always, at the back of her mind, is Donna and that tragic day, the reminder of which stares back at her every time she sees her face.

"I could be angry forever, or I could just say, you know what? It happened, and I am gonna live with it," she said. "And I am gonna kiss my kids tomorrow, and I am gonna be OK. And you know, I am the luckiest person in the whole world."

"As I pulled in, [Michael] was parked directly straight ahead. And I saw him sitting in his… the driver's seat. And and Donna saw him," Julie said. "I literally drove right by him; I had no reason not to. I drove right by him. And… and he turned his back, as if he was getting something out of the back seat of the car. "

Michael Bochicchio watched as Julie and Donna drove through the parking lot. He got out of his car and walked to where Julie was pulling into a space at the far end. She pressed a button that automatically opened the side doors to her minivan. As the two women got out of their car, Michael approached them. Julie didn't notice the gun in Michael's hands, she only remembers his eyes.

"I still see it in my head. I see a very determined, angry man," she said. "That's what it was like. He just had a look like, 'There is nothing that's gonna stop me from doing what I am about to do."