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Palm Coast Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2019 2 weeks ago

Six years after Mobil gas station murder, Joseph Bova faces jury, pleading insanity

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Bova had been hearing voices at the time he committed the murder, according to this defense team.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

It is not in dispute that on Feb. 21, 2013, Joseph Frank Bova II walked into the Mobil gas station on State Road 100 with a SCCY 9-mm semiautomatic handgun and shot the clerk — Zuheily Rosado, a 32-year-old mother of four — execution style in the head.

Bova has confessed to that.

Joseph Bova at a hearing in 2015. (File photo)

The question facing a Flagler County jury this week is not the what, but the why: Bova is alleging that he was insane at the time of the attack.

Prosecutor Jason Lewis told the jury Wednesday morning, Sept. 25, that he couldn't say why Bova had shot Rosado.

"Maybe he was bored. Maybe he had nothing to do. Maybe he just wanted to kill someone. Maybe he wanted that rob the store and he didn’t after he shot her," Lewis said. But what Lewis could say, he said, was the following: "It was a premeditated murder."

Bova has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and has spent the six years since the shooting bouncing between the county jail and a state mental hospital.

But immediately after his arrest, Lewis said, "He’s very coherent, pays close attention to everything, and he’s going to deny, deny deny.” A psychological expert, Lewis said, would tell the jury that Bova was not insane at the time of the shooting.

According to the defense, Bova had been hearing voices over the five to seven months before he shot Rosado. 

"They were telling him bad things," defense attorney Joshua Mosley said. "Bad things about himself, bad things about others. They told him Ms. Rosado was the devil; she was evil ... you have to kill her for the good of the American people. It’s a product of schizophrenia. And the voices told him that if he did not kill Ms. Rosado, they would kill him; they would come after him. ... They are terrifying, they were annoying, they are commanding: And that's why he did it."

The crime

Several hours before the fatal shooting at the gas station at 6020 E. State Road 100 in Palm Coast, surveillance footage shows a man — Bova — walking into the convenience store and using the ATM. 

"The voices told him that if he did not kill Ms. Rosado, they would kill him; they would come after him."

JOSHUA MOSLEY, defense atttorney

When he returned that night, he parked away from the convenience store, nearer to the McDonald's and the Coconuts Car Wash building, in a spot that had a clear line of sight toward the gas station. For about a minute, he'd watched the store empty of customers. Then, using a path behind the car wash, he walked up to the convenience store and burst inside. 

He was wearing jeans and had a T-shirt pulled over his head. He'd cut eye holes in the shirt — a factor that Lewis mentioned as an indicator of premeditation — and had the gun in his hand.

Bova shot Rosado in the face at 10:09 p.m., from a distance. Then he walked up to five feet away from her, and shot her twice more, in the neck and the torso.

He fled after the murder and wasn't found until seven months later, living in his car in Boca Raton.

By then, he was already a person of interest: Detectives checking area gun shops for records of the sale of the kind of firearm used in the shooting had determined that Bova had bought one in a Daytona Beach gun shop in 2012. 

When deputies searched his car, they found it, then matched it to the murder weapon using three shell casings recovered from the scene.

Insanity defense

Bova's arrest was followed by a years-long process of adjudicating whether or not he was competent to stand trial.

He'd be found incompetent at one, then competent at the next after a medication adjustment, then revert to incompetency. The prosecution has, at various junctures during the repeated hearings, accused Bova of malingering.

He was at first found incompetent, then, at one point in 2015, was found competent by Judge David Walsh; in 2017, before Judge Dennis Craig, he was again found incompetent. 

"He waits for that last customer at 10:07 and 57 seconds to leave. He bursts into the gas station. His face is covered."

— JASON LEWIS, assistant state attorney

At one point, he wrote to the judge, saying he'd been framed. Then he wrote and said he wanted to plead guilty. Another letter said he'd made a mistake and wanted to plead not guilty. That was followed by yet another letter stating that he wanted to plead guilty. He's now pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

In court in 2017, when Craig asked Bova whether he believed he was competent, Bova threatened the judge, saying, "Sir, there's going to be a death toll of at least four people in this building today if you do not get me out of this building. ... Sir, I'm threatening your life exactly by looking at you right now."

Bova's psychiatric problems had started, Mosley said, after Bova was struck by a truck while riding a dirt bike in his early teens. He recovered into hospital, but began to frequently be hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. 

"For most of his teenage years, Mr. Bova is in and our of psychiatric hospitals," Mosley said. "He gets diagnosed with bipolar. … He was fixated on being not attractive to women." After his arrest, Mosley said, "He attempted to do his own rhinoplasty: He cut his nose and injected caulk into his own face; the same stuff you use in your bathroom."

He'd moved from Connecticut to Flagler County about six to eight months before the shooting, and moved into the Palm Pointe condominiums, about 2.7 miles west of the gas station.

"When he committed this act, he was suffering mental defect or disease," Mosley said. "He did not appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions."

But Lewis noted that Bova had had the presence of mind to conceal his identity during the shooting, to plan to enter the convenience store when no one was there, and then to immediately flee Flagler County.

"He waits for that last customer at 10:07 and 57 seconds to leave," Lewis said. "He bursts into the gas station. His face is covered … He readjusts his face mask ... to make sure it’s covering his face completely."

After the shooting, Lewis said, one of Bova's neighbor's saw Bova arrive home with a gun and then frantically pack up a suitcase. Then he left and never returned.

The trial is expected to end on Monday, Sept. 30.

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