Oct. 26--A close friend of Joseph Caronna told jurors Thursday he initially offered support and sympathy for his friend when his wife went missing in October 2008 in Cordova.
Gary Hathaway said, however, that his view of Caronna gradually changed during their two-day search for Tina Caronna that ended when she was found dead in her vehicle abandoned on a Bartlett street.
"During the search someone said they'd check Bartlett and Joe said 'Don't go to Bartlett. Tina never goes to Bartlett,'" said Hathaway, who had worked on a car with Caronna the day she disappeared. "Somebody told him that police always look at the husband as the first suspect and Joe turned to me and said 'Well, you're my alibi.'"
Hathaway, a FedEx pilot and fellow Corvette enthusiast with Caronna, testified on the second day of Caronna's first-degree murder trial in Criminal Court. Tina Caronna, 44, a financial executive, died of asphyxiation.
Hathaway said he began to suspect his friend when Tina Caronna's body was found Oct. 27, 2008, in her Chevy Avalanche on Brannick Drive in Bartlett, a few blocks from a storage facility where the two men kept collector cars.
He said Caronna had gone to the storage facility two days earlier -- the day his wife went missing -- to get his red 1971 Chevelle, which the two men worked on in the afternoon.
Several days later, Hathaway said, he went with Caronna to help make funeral arrangements and on the ride home, Caronna made a call on his cellphone.
"He was saying 'Yeah, it was Tina. I've got closure now. No, don't send flowers. Tina didn't like flowers. Send something to a charity,'" Hathaway said. "I've never seen a tear since this happened."
In earlier testimony, Memphis police Sgt. Connie Justice said she interviewed Caronna at his home the morning his wife's body was found, though he had not yet gotten the news.
"He obviously was very distraught," said Justice, who initially was following up the missing person report on Tina Caronna. "He was sweating profusely. He was continuously running his hand through his hair.... On his forearms were 10 to 15 faint bruises on the top and bottom....They were bluish and purplish and rather faint."
Bartlett police Det. Kevin Martin said Caronna told him his wife probably left their home on Eatonwick in Cordovabetween 10:50 a.m. and noon on Oct. 25, 2008, to buy supplies for a car club party that night, but that he didn't actually see her leave and doesn't wear a watch.
Martin said police considered a full array of explanations for her death, including road rage, gang violence, robbery and other family members, including Tina Caronna's teenage son from a previous marriage.
"Mr. Caronna described him as a normal, irresponsible kid," the detective said, adding that robbery was discounted because she still was wearing rings valued at some $30,000.
Police also learned that Caronna, 48, an insurance agent, had been having an eight-year affair with a woman named Becky Black.
"At that point everyone was a suspect," Martin told the jury, adding that Black was cooperative when interviewed.
Caronna was not charged with his wife's murder until five months later, though he had left town and could not be located for three weeks. He was arrested living under an alias in a Jackson, Tenn., motel.
The trial before Judge W. Mark Ward resumes Friday morning and is expected to last two weeks.
(c)2012 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)
Visit The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) at www.commercialappeal.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services