James Lally, the man thought to have been with missing Iona woman Suzanne LaPierre, went before a judge in Lee County Wednesday morning for his first appearance after state attorneys say he confessed to murdering her.
Deputies arrested 51-year-old Lally in Jacksonville on Tuesday afternoon. Neighbors say he was dating 54-year-old LaPierre. He is currently in the Lee County Jail after a judge ruled he will be held without bond until his next court appearance on March 28 at 8:30 a.m.
The state says Lally confessed to murdering LaPierre with a hammer to kill LaPierre before disposing of her body in a different location, afterward pawning her jewelry and family heirlooms in Sarasota. Lally’s second-degree murder charge is a first-degree felony and is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Deputies were earlier seen outside LaPierre’s home in the Century 21 community. Crime scene tape and a deputy parked out front remained there Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said detectives knew instantly something very violent happened inside LaPierre’s home.
“They discovered a bloody scene. Our investigation revealed that Suzanne was beaten to death with a hammer and that Lally was on the run,” said Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.
Lally was LaPierre’s boyfriend. Deputies said it wasn’t a long relationship, but neighbors said it started out lovingly.
“He painted her toenails and stuff and she just thought she was in heaven you know, she was like a little kid,” said neighbor Brian Larimer.
It was heaven at first, but it turned into hell at the end.
“She told him the relationship was over and that he needed to move out, some point after that he became irate and ended up killing her with a hammer,” said Marceno.
The Sheriff’s Office released a photo of the hammer they believed Lally used to kill LaPierre.
Marceno said Lally drove 11 miles away to Dusty Road where he dumped LaPierre’s body. Lally then hopped in the red Chevy HHR and tried to get away. Lally made it to Jacksonville before being caught, he is now back in Lee County where a state attorney told a judge Lally admitted to everything.
“He confessed to the crime, it was also a very brutal murder in that he used a hammer, he drug her body, disposed of it in a different location, she was trying to leave him and he wasn’t going to let that happen and brutally murdered her,” said the state attorney.
“Definitely tragic. I mean shocked to think something like that happened,” said Larimer.
The prosecutor during Lally’s first appearance said, “He actually killed her and then he pawned her family heirlooms, her jewelry, took her car … He also has a failure to appear as a prior, along with other felony priors; some of them violent. He actually has a kidnapping conviction”
Prosecutors also argued not only is it unsafe for Lally to be in the community, but they say he’s also a flight risk.
Lally will remain in jail until his next court appearance at the Lee County Courthouse on March 28 at 8:30 a.m.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office held a news conference to give details of the case.
Watch in the player below or click here.