Cell mate: Fast wanted to create alibi

Murder trial will stretch into second week

rnapper@bradenton.comJuly 11, 2009 

BRADENTON — Thomas Fast’s jailhouse cell mate told a jury Friday morning Fast asked him to create an alibi for him in the disappearance of his stepmother, Susan Fast.

Gilbert Pierola, an 11-time felon, testified that he shared a cell with Thomas Fast after authorities arrested him on a gun charge shortly after Susan Fast’s husband reported her missing.

“He said ‘a confession is the only thread keeping me from certain conviction,’ ” Pierola said of one conversation he had in jail with Fast.

Pierola said Fast also called his stepmother names, calling her a “crack whore” and “drug addict.” Fast also asked if Pierola would get his sister to “play the role” of a woman Fast claims he went to the beach with after an encounter he had with Susan Fast on the night her husband reported her missing. Thomas Fast is the last person to have seen his stepmother alive.

“He asked me if I would be his alibi, but I told him I couldn’t because I was in jail,” said Pierola. “Then he asked if my sister could do it, and I told him I would ask.”

During cross examination, Fast’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts attacked Pierola’s credibility, saying he cut a deal with authorities to set up Fast to better his own legal problems.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies jailed Pierola in May 2007, on charges of burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief. He broke into a home with a woman, had sex with her in the house, ate all the food in a refrigerator and stole a van from the home, according to sheriff’s reports.

But even with Pierola’s extensive arrest record, the inmate received house arrest and probation on charges in which he faced 20 years prison, Roberts said.

Pierola said two sheriff’s sergeants came to him in jail and offered to “help him” with his charges if he obtained information from Fast. Pierola agreed and Fast was transferred to Pierola’s cell.

“Wasn’t it that agreement that put you in that witness stand today?” Roberts said.

“Yes,” Pierola answered.

Pierola also told Roberts that Fast never admitted to killing his stepmother and told Pierola he believed she was alive and in another country as a frantic search went on.

Susan Fast’s friend, Debbie Timpone, also testified Friday about entering Susan Fast’s home with Bruce Fast, the victim’s husband, on the night he reported her missing.

“It was ice cold,” Timpone said of walking in the home. “I knew right away there was something wrong and I told Bruce I couldn’t go any further.”

Thomas Fast is accused of first-degree murder in the killing of his stepmother, whose dismembered body parts were found nearly a month after her husband reported her missing.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies found Susan Fast’s body parts stuffed in garbage bags and dumped in a storm drain behind a Lakewood Ranch Publix shopping center.

Attorneys had hoped to have the trial finished this week, but proceedings have been slow going and the trial will resume Monday. Tampa attorney Joe Episcopo, who is observing the trial as a legal analyst, said the trial has taken longer than expected because the judge and attorneys are taking their time to ensure that a higher court will not later overturn the verdict.

“They are being extra careful not to make any mistakes because they don’t want a reversal,” Episcopo said.

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