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February 20, 2013

Money trouble, infidelity and homicide

Details emerge in Lazzana-Webster killing

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Money trouble, infidelity and homicide
Anthony Webster, 45, is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 25 shooting death of his wife, Christina Lazzana-Webster, in their Eastpointe home.

EASTPOINTE — Many of the facts surrounding the death of Christina Lazzana-Webster, an Eastpointe resident and business owner, remain uncertain, but during a preliminary exam in 39th District Court in Eastpointe Feb. 7, details of her killing began to surface.

Her husband and business partner, Anthony Webster, is accused of second-degree murder.

After examining the body at the scene and in her office, Dr. Mary Pietrangelo, the deputy medical examiner in Macomb County, testified that the death was a homicide, caused by a bullet wound to the chest.

Through a series of answers to questions from Prosecutor Bill Cataldo, she explained to the court how she came to her conclusion. One of the first indications of a homicide was the presence of stippling, or tiny wounds caused by unburned gunpowder.

“Stipple wounds are considered to be of a distance of approximately 18-24 inches from the muzzle of a gun to the individual,” Pietrangelo told the court.

Stipple wounds were present on Lazzana-Webster’s chest, lower right forearm and right thumb pad area.

Lazzana-Webster was shot twice. The first bullet traveled through her left breast, going in and out. It was the second bullet that killed her.

“The bullet struck the sternum, which is the breast bone, and then it struck the pericardium, which is the sack that the heart is located in; it went through the heart itself, the large right chamber, or right ventricle; the right atrium, which is the smaller chamber; the septum, which lies between the right and left ventricle, was also lacerated; and the bullet lacerated the aorta and the right lung,” Pietrangelo said.

In addition to the manner and mode of death, Pietrangelo estimated, through the evaluation of rigor mortis and livor mortis, the time of death to be sometime in the evening or on the night of Jan. 25.

William Pearl, Lazzana-Webster’s 17-year-old son, was the second witness to testify during the preliminary exam.

Pearl said his mom was on the phone with someone when she picked him up from school just after 2 p.m. Jan. 25. He didn’t know who she was talking to, but he knew she was upset.

“She was upset because (Webster) had hung up the phone on her earlier and he was not answering calls,” Pearl said.

Around 5:45 p.m., Pearl drove his mother’s Lexus to their store, Big Top Popcorn. When he arrived, an employee told him his mother had called and wanted him to come back to the house and pick her up. Pearl turned around and drove back home. Webster was gone when Pearl  went inside the house to get his mom.

“My mom begins to drive and she drops me back off at the store,” Pearl testified. “I told her I wanted to be picked up an hour-and-a-half to two hours later.”

It was the last time he saw or spoke to his mother.

Kimyana Reece, Lazzana-Webster’s best friend, was the third witness to testify. Cataldo began by asking her how often the two spoke.

“Oh my gosh, five, six, sometimes 10 or 20 (times a day); it depended on how much we had going on and what we needed to talk about,” Reece said.

Reece described their first conversation on the morning of Jan. 25.

“One of the things that she continuously told me every day was that, ‘I got to get out of here. I got to move. I’m uncomfortable. I never know what he is thinking. I never know what he is doing,’ and that she needed to remove herself,” Reece said.

They spoke a few more times throughout the afternoon, most of the conversations about Webster, a few involving money problems — Lazzana-Webster told Reece that Webster had been collecting rent at their rental property, but he had not paid the taxes on the property or given Lazzana-Webster her share of the money — and one involving an affair.

“He had finally admitted, after a series of questions that I guess she had asked, that he had been having an affair with someone,” Reece testified. “She was upset because this person, according to the web, she knew had been into her business establishment before. She didn’t know what this person looked like or anything, but this person probably knew her and she felt like it was unfair that she had been honest about certain things, but he hadn’t.”

According to the questioning and testimony, Lazzana-Webster had had an affair that resulted in a pregnancy in 2011, just a year after she married Webster, and from July to November 2012, she lived with another man in Clinton Township. 

At one point during the day Jan. 25, Lazzana-Webster took her husband’s phone and unsuccessfully attempted to unlock it to search for information on the woman he was having an affair with.

Reece described the last time she spoke to her best friend that evening.

“I was in Dearborn, headed to a cellphone store,” Reece said. “The first thing I had asked her was about the situation with that phone. … She said, ‘I just said forget it and I gave him the phone back. I’m just tired of it and I’m fed up.’ She said, ‘I tried calling him several times’ and he wouldn’t answer her calls and whatever, and she had told me that he had left earlier and that someone had picked him up and he was gone.

“I remember making a comment to her, saying that, ‘You know, you really have to find somewhere to live. This situation could get really ugly.’ And she said, ‘Yeah I feel the same way.’ And that was the last time I talked to her.”

Before hanging up at about 6:45 p.m., Reece said that she told Lazzana-Webster to keep her phone by her because she’d be calling right back. She was only in the store for about 20 minutes, but when she tried calling back, there was no answer.

When his mom didn’t show up, Pearl began calling her, but after waiting for more than an hour, he eventually made plans to pick up food and walk to a friend’s house. While on his way, he noticed his mother’s Lexus driving westbound down Nine Mile, from the direction of I-94 toward Gratiot.

He waved his arms in the air, but the car didn’t slow. As it passed, he testified, he saw Webster driving. After the car passed, he watched for only a block before turning around and heading back toward Taco Bell.

He did not see if the Lexus turned down David Street, where the Webster home is located, or continued to Gratiot. The outfit he told police he saw Webster wearing was later discovered inside their home.

Pearl went to his friend’s house, and a little while later, the pair walked down to his house to grab his Xbox. When they arrived at the house, all the lights were off and the Lexus was gone. Pearl thought maybe nobody was home.

He was only in the house for a few minutes. He grabbed the Xbox from his basement room and left the store cash envelop on the kitchen counter, then left.

The next afternoon, Pearl learned that his mom was dead.

The Eastpointe Police Department had received an anonymous tip alerting them to the situation. When they arrived just after 1:30 p.m. Jan. 26, they searched the home for missing items and signs of a break-in.

The envelope was still in place and intact. The only two things that were missing were Lazzana-Webster’s Lexus and about 17 handguns registered to Webster at that address. One of the handguns, a .38 Special, was found fully loaded in the snow beside the driveway.

The Lexus was discovered days later in Detroit, just four blocks away from Webster’s parent’s house, according to the testimony.

Police speculate that Webster killed his wife, fled, and then returned to the house for his collection of handguns, according to Cataldo.

Webster’s attorney, Randall Upshaw, offered a different scenario. Upshaw said Lazzana-Webster had previously stolen the handguns while in a volatile relationship with another man over the summer, and that, in August 2012, Webster had attempted to report the guns stolen to the Eastpointe Police Department.

Detective Patrick Connor testified he knew of the attempted report, but said he was not aware of what happened after that.

Connor was the last person to testify before Cataldo requested a continuance. Judge Carl Gerds ruled that enough probable cause had been presented to warrant it and allowed Cataldo the time to collect phone records and ballistics reports.

The preliminary exam will continue at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28 in front of Judge Carl Gerds of the 38th District Court in Eastpointe.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.