In a packed courtroom at the Nesbett Courthouse on Wednesday, a trial got underway in what the state says was a triple murder at an Anchorage gold business in 2017.
According to prosecutors, 45-year-old Anthony Pisano killed three other men during a botched robbery inside the Bullion Brothers precious metals business on a September morning.
“This isn’t self-defense,” Deputy District Attorney Brittany Dunlop told the jury during opening arguments.
“Over the next several weeks you are going to hear a case about an intentional and planned homicide, and the horrible execution of the would-be witnesses to that homicide,” Dunlop said.
According to prosecutors, Pisano was close to the two owners of the Spenard business. They allege on the morning of the shooting he brought a handgun, water bottles full of gasoline, and flares into the store, part of a planned robbery. After unplugging the security system, prosecutors say Pisano opened fire, killing 31-year-old Steven Cook, and then two other men who quickly rushed to the scene, 48-year-old Kenneth Hartman, and 31-year-old Daniel McCreadie.
According to Dunlop, part of the reason the state believes Pisano tried to rob the business was that he and his wife were severely in debt, owing $80,000 in credit card bills, along with other expenses.
“The defendant was in a financial crisis,” Dunlop said. “He had a plan.”
She previewed weeks of evidence the state will use to prove its case, including witnesses, financial records, ballistic experts, security footage, and 911 calls.
Defense attorneys for Pisano say the state’s argument and explanation are completely wrong, that Cook was killed by his business partner Michael DuPree.
In his opening statement, attorney Kevin Fitzgerald said Pisano was trying to break up a physical altercation between the two business owners when DuPree grabbed his handgun and shot Cook. That, the according to the defense, set off a series of events involving a three-way standoff between Pisano, Hartman, and McCreadie. Fitzgerald laid out an elaborate sequence in which Pisano killed both other men in self-defense.
Fitzgerald said the theory his client was trying to rob known associates is filled with holes.
“It’s inconsistent with the circumstances, it’s consistent with the evidence, and it’s inconsistent with common sense,” he told the jury.
A former Special Operator who left the Army just shy of 20 years, attorneys for both sides agree Pisano is an expert marksman and extremely familiar with combat tactics.
The court gallery was packed, with all three rows of seats and extra folding chairs filled. Family members of the deceased men were watching, as was Pisano’s wife.
The state is pursing three charges of first-degree murder.