Hollywood, Florida is a typical suburban town outside of Fort Lauderdale, but in 1993, it felt anything but typical. The normally quiet town received a torrent of unwanted media attention when a grisly true crime tale unfolded before the residents’ horrified eyes. More shocking than the murder itself was the fact that a group of young people, including teenagers, had conspired to kill a friend. Their reason? The young man was a bully.
The story started long before 1993. The two main players in this twisted drama, Bobby Kent and Marty Puccio, grew up on the same block in Hollywood and had known each other since they were little kids.
As sometimes occurs with adolescent friendships, Kent and Puccio had a strange, unequal relationship. Kent regularly bullied Puccio, beating him and humiliating him.
As the two grew older, they stayed friends, but Bobby Kent did not grow out of his bad habits. He continued to bully Marty Puccio. The parents of the young men did not think the two should be friends on any level, though for different reasons. Puccio’s parents saw the abuse first-hand when their son would come home bloodied and bruised, and Kent’s mother and father thought Puccio was a burnout and a bad influence on their son. The fact that Puccio was a high school dropout only made the Kent family more wary of the friendship.
The two young men began taking steroids, which only increased the abuse Kent heaped upon Puccio.
The two also attempted to make their own pornographic films, with the hope of selling them in local shops. Kent and Puccio paid men to masturbate on camera, but were unable to sell the films. As Kent’s bullying ratcheted up, 20-year-old Puccio began dating an 18-year-old girl named Lisa Connelly.
Puccio’s new girlfriend immediately took note of the bizarre, abusive friendship and tried to distract Kent by setting him up with her friend, Ali Willis. Kent was abusive toward 17-year-old Willis, and the two only dated for a few weeks.
As 1993 wore on, Marty Puccio, and Lisa Connelly, began to grow more and more frustrated with Bobby Kent’s violent behavior. Connelly became pregnant with Puccio’s child, and the two came up with a scheme to get Kent out of their lives once and for all.
On July 13, 1993, Connelly, Ali Willis, and a group of their friends gathered with one thing on their minds: to discuss how to murder the bully Bobby Kent. Marty Puccio was not present at this meeting, but the six others who met that night decided how and when Bobby Kent would die.
The next night, the group, now numbering seven including Puccio, lured Bobby Kent to a remote construction site. The group was armed with a pipe, knives, and a baseball bat. Ali Willis, Kent’s former girlfriend, lured Kent away from the rest of the group so the two could talk.
A short time later, the rest of the group ambushed Kent, stabbing and beating him. After he was stabbed the first time, Kent turned to Puccio, his longtime friend, and said, “Marty, whatever I did I’m sorry!” But it was too late.
Kent tried to escape, but the group tackled him and continued the assault. Puccio stabbed his tormenter multiple times and slit his throat. Derek Kaufman, 20, delivered the killing blow, bashing Kent’s head in with an aluminum baseball bat. 20-year-old Bobby Kent was dead.
A few days later, 19-year-old Derek Dzvirko, who was present at the murder, decided to come clean to police and lead them to Bobby Kent’s body. The seven young men and women who carried out Kent’s murder were all arrested and given prison sentences.
Marty Puccio was originally sentenced to death but his judgment was later commuted to a life sentence. Two others, Derek Kaufman and 17-year-old Donald Semenac, also received life sentences. As for the young women involved in the case, Lisa Connelly spent 9 years in prison and was released in 2004, and Ali Willis served time until 2001.
The story of Bobby Kent’s murder was turned into a bestselling book and a feature film in 2001.
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