Man claims insanity defense in 2010 shotgun slaying

Prosecution: Robert Cantelli was on a 'meth run' before he killed Joshua Hill

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 3, 2012 

Accused of using a shotgun to blast a man in the head in the back seat of his Toyota 4-Runner for no reason, Robert Cantelli is admitting to the 2010 homicide but claiming insanity as his defense.

Prosecutors counter that Cantelli's psychotic behavior resulted from a "meth run" that had kept him awake for days before the killing, but he was not insane.

The trial is to begin Dec. 11 in Muscogee Superior Court Judge John Allen's courtroom, after attorneys argue which evidence is admissible and which should be excluded.

According to testimony from his preliminary hearing in Columbus Recorder's Court, Cantelli used a shotgun with its stock removed to shoot Joshua Hill after stopping at a convenience store to buy cigarettes.

Almonnie Ladd, who was Cantelli's girlfriend at the time, was driving the Toyota from the Shell station at 12th Avenue and 18th Street when Cantelli pulled the shotgun out and killed Hill, Ladd's cousin. Cantelli then told Ladd to keep driving, and she drove across the river to Alabama, where she jumped out of the vehicle and ran after stopping on U.S. 431 near Alabama 169.

Asked why Cantelli killed Hill, Ladd testified, "I have no clue."

Cantelli left Hill's body in the back floorboard as he drove to his father's home near Seale, Ala., where the elder Cantelli found his son "wasn't in his right mind," he testified.

The younger Cantelli, who had served in the Army in Bosnia, started chasing after a helicopter overhead, the father said: "He was hollering some colonel's name and going after the helicopter."

After leaving his father's home, Cantelli initiated a chase when police tried to pull him over. After his Toyota crashed into a ravine at the intersection of U.S. 280 and Seale Road, officers found Hill's body in the back.

Now 34, Cantelli's being represented by Ray Lakes of the public defender's office. In a hearing Monday, Lakes objected to introducing evidence that on the day of the homicide, Cantelli admitted to police that he'd been using meth. Lakes also asked that jurors not be shown photos of Hill's body, which the attorney said were particularly gruesome.

Since Cantelli admits he killed Hill, showing jurors the photos is unnecessary and prejudicial, Lakes said.

Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly said the prosecution and defense likely will present conflicting testimony from experts evaluating Cantelli's sanity.

Kelly said authorities repeatedly have encountered suspects suffering a "drug-induced psychosis" from the prolonged use of methamphetamine and lack of sleep, but it does not constitute insanity.

Cantelli's charges include murder and concealing another's death.

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