WEST PALM BEACH — A jury on Monday convicted 83-year-old Alfred Infosino of second-degree murder for beating his 77-year-old girlfriend to death with a flashlight.
The verdict came at the end of a weeklong first-degree murder trial for Infosino, whose attorneys tried to convince jurors he was suffering side effects from an improperly prescribed antidepressant drug when he awoke at 4 a.m. and attacked his longtime partner, Rita Chirel, inside the home they shared in suburban Delray Beach.
In closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater played parts of the 911 call Infosino made hours after the October 2010 killing. In it, Infosino gruffly explained to the operator that he had killed Chirel and drank ammonia in an attempt to kill himself.
Infosino called his brother to express shame over what he had done and scrawled a letter Slater called "a perfect act of contrition," two signs Slater said meant that he knew what he was doing was wrong at the time of the attack.
Slater said Infosino, a former New York attorney who had recently lost a position of power in his homeowners association, simply failed to restrain his temper.
"This is a man whose life had fallen down around him. He's not the president, he's not the big cheese in the community that he used to be and he couldn't take it," Slater said. "It's no more complicated than that."
But Infosino's attorney Michael Schutt told jurors that the only thing that could explain Infosino's actions on the morning he killed Chirel was the culmination of disturbing side effects from the antidepressant, Remeron, also known as Mirtazapine.
Schutt described for jurors how the drug had transformed Infosino from a mildly depressed octogenarian into a paranoid, deeply disturbed man who suddenly thought the woman he described as "his life" was trying to poison him, steal his money and drive him crazy.
"Why would he beat to death the woman he loved, the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with?" Schutt asked jurors before adding of Infosino: "He had nothing to gain, and everything to lose with Rita dead."
Jurors began deliberating the case just after 2 p.m. and returned the verdict two hours later. Infosino faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 21.
Schutt, who told jurors that Infosino could barely muster the energy to stay awake during his trial, said he disagreed with the panel's verdict. He and Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Marshall said though Infosino was mentally strong enough to understand that he had been convicted, his health is otherwise poor.
"His body's breaking down, he's got a terrible heart. He's dying," Schutt said.