A funeral was held today for a Massachusetts father of four who police say was beaten to death by another man following a dispute over a hockey game in which their sons were playing.
Michael Costin, 40, of Lynnfield, died Friday, two days after being injured in the brawl at a hockey rink in front of several youngsters. Thomas Junta, 42, of Reading, Mass., has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges in Costin’s death and is free on $5,000 bond.
Costin’s three sons and daughter, ages 9 to 12, wept during the hourlong funeral that drew more than 200 people. At the funeral, mourners urged parents to control their anger for their children’s sake.
“We really have to take a look at sports and the parents have to take a good look at themselves,” said mourner Brian Mahoney, 49, whose children played with Costin’s. Tom Grilk, who coached one of Costin’s sons in hockey, said he took his own 10-year-old twin sons to the funeral “for them to be part of this time and show support for the family and, in some small way, to understand the horror of anger gone wrong.”
Son Crawled in Casket
Gene Ellison, a friend of Costin, told ABCNEWS’ Good Morning America that the death has been hard on the community, the victim’s children and especially his mother, who had lost another son in a stabbing.
“Anytime without any reason anyone is brutally murdered like this, you just sit there and shake your head,” Ellison said.
Ellison said he attended a somber evening wake for Costin on Monday, but he was told the afternoon wake was more trying.
“It was a very sad situation,” Ellison said. “Michael’s son crawled up into the casket with him. It was actually a difficult time for a lot of people.”
Children Witnessed Beating
Costin died after July 7, two days after he became involved in a dispute with Junta at a rink in Reading, police say. Costin had been out on the ice supervising a group of youngsters, including his three sons and Junta’s son.
The youngsters’s hockey game was supposed to be non-contact, but police say Junta became agitated when things got rough and some of the young players engaged in checking.
Junta and Costin began arguing with each other. A rink manager threw Junta out, but police say he returned and beat Costin unconscious in front of a group of children, some as young as 10.
Costin only recently gained custody of all four of his children. The oldest is 12 years old. Costin’s mother, a nurse who works the overnight shift, is now taking care of the children, Ellison said.
Costin was divorced from the mother of his four children and had made many sacrifices and overcome obstacles to get them back, Ellison said.
The Boston Globe reported today that Costin had served time in prison on seven occasions between 1983 and 1995. He also had a troubled family history, the paper said: His father killed one of Costin’s brothers and served time for manslaughter.
Junta: It Was Self-Defense
Meanwhile, Boston-area residents say they are having a hard time grasping that a dispute between two parents over a children’s game could turn deadly. Investigators say it was simply a hockey scrimmage, sort of a pick-up game, that turned fatal.
Prosecutors say Costin was subjected to brutal blows. “The defendant struck repeated blows to the left side of Mr. Costin’s head and neck. He also banged Mr. Costin’s head,” said Assistant District Attorney Gerard Butler.
Junta’s lawyer says his client was acting in self-defense, and that Costin started the fight.
“There are two sides to every story,” defense attorney Thomas Orlandi said at the arraignment. “Mr. Junta … has bruises to his ribs. He has bruises and cuts on the inside of his legs where he was defending himself from where he was kicked.”
Junta is due back in court in August. If convicted, he faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years. ABCNEWS Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.