Ridgeland man convicted of murdering his wife, mother of 8, including newborn
RIDGELAND, SC (August 2, 2018) – A Ridgeland restaurateur who shot and killed his wife – the mother of eight children, including a 6-week-old-son – has been convicted of murder.
Richard Passio Jr., 39, was found guilty Thursday by a Jasper County General Sessions Court jury in the death of Michelle Passio, who was 33 when she was killed June 3, 2016. Richard Passio was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Michelle Passio would have turned 36 on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018.
“The defendant attempted to control virtually every aspect of Michelle Passio’s life – her comings and goings, her finances, her friendships,” said Hunter Swanson of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “Ultimately, however, he couldn’t control her dissatisfaction with her marriage, and he killed her for it.
“Mr. Passio continued to manipulate, even after his wife’s death. However, it quickly became clear that his story about what took place in the early morning hours of June 3, 2016, didn’t match the crime-scene evidence.”
Richard Passio called 9-1-1 at about 5:52 a.m. on the morning he killed his wife, telling the operator she fired twice into the air before turning a 9 mm handgun on herself. As emergency vehicles approached, Passio stopped tending to his wife, despite the operator’s instructions to apply pressure to her gunshot wound. He ran into the street and flagged down a Ridgeland Police officer, who entered the darkened home and found Michelle Passio on a living room couch, dead of a bullet wound under her chin. The couple’s 6-week-old son slept in a bassinet just a few feet away.
Richard Passio later told investigators they had discussed problems with their 12-year marriage deep into the night and that Michelle Passio became suicidal, at one point begging him to kill her because she couldn’t kill herself. He said they scuffled over a handgun that he was carrying in a waistband holster after walking the family’s dog late at night. His said his hand was cut during the fracas and that he called 9-1-1 just after his wife wrested the gun from him and killed herself.
However, one of Passio’s neighbors reported hearing gunshots much earlier in the evening. Another neighbor who was walking a dog just outside the Passio home at about the time the 9-1-1- call was being made said she heard no gunshots at that time.
Emergency personnel and law-enforcement officials also noticed that much of the blood found at the crime scene had coagulated and that Michelle Passio’s body was cold to the touch, even though they arrived within minutes of Richard Passio’s call. The defendant also claimed that the gun was kept in the couple’s bedroom. However, surveillance video from the restaurant that Passio helped his family run showed him entering the building empty-handed earlier that night and exiting with a black box that restaurant employees say he used to store a handgun. The box was recovered from the trunk of the car Passio drove that night.
Witnesses testified that Richard Passio kept his wife under tight control, refusing to let her have friends or go places without his permission. They also said Michelle Passio had recently consulted an attorney and intended to seek a divorce.
The jury of six men and six women heard testimony from 20 prosecution witnesses during three-day trial, including officers from the Ridgeland Police Department and expert witnesses from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen handed down the prison sentence.
Swanson leads the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit. The team was formed in late 2017 to prosecute criminal sexual assault throughout the 14th Circuit, as well as cases related to domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes against vulnerable populations in Beaufort and Jasper counties. Swanson has won all three of her jury trials since the SVU was formed, with defendants sentenced to a combined 117 years in prison terms.