Del. May Seek Death Penalty In Slaying Donald Flagg, 40, Is Charged With Killing A Funeral Director And Abducting And Raping His Wife Last Week.

Posted: April 29, 1998

Lawyers for the prosecution and defense said yesterday that the charges against Donald Flagg in the slaying of a Delaware funeral director are likely to become a death-penalty case.

``It's problematic,'' said Brendan O'Neill, a public defender who was appointed Flagg's lawyer yesterday. ``There's very little good news for Mr. Flagg.

``I don't think there's any chance the state will not seek the death penalty,'' he added.

James Ropp, deputy attorney general for Delaware, said the case ``appears to be death penalty-eligible.''

Flagg, 40, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Anthony Puglisi Jr., 50, on April 20 in Newark. He faces charges that include abduction and rape in the kidnapping of Puglisi's wife, Debra, 46, who was held hostage for four days. According to the arrest warrant, Flagg confessed to the crimes.

Delaware police are also trying to determine whether Flagg was involved in several other crimes, and plan to search his house in Bear this week.

``We are hoping that we will locate evidence that can tie him to one or more pending cases in New Castle County,'' said Lt. Rick Chamberlin, a spokesman for the state police.

According to court records, Flagg was arrested and charged with second-degree unlawful imprisonment in July 1989 for holding a Delaware woman against her will for 12 hours in a motel room in Wilmington.

The charges were dropped two weeks later, court records show. He has also been convicted of a handful of minor crimes, including petty theft, in Delaware and Michigan, police said.

Newark Police Lt. Gerald Conway said yesterday that Flagg was a suspect in the attempted abduction of a 29-year-old Newark woman in September. ``The general description and physical characteristics fit Mr. Flagg,'' he said.

Conway said the woman was walking home on Barksdale Road around 10:30 p.m. when she was ambushed. She fended off her attacker and escaped with bruises, he said.

Flagg, whom police described as a model employee of Chrysler Corp. in Newark, allegedly killed Puglisi while high on crack cocaine. He then kidnapped Puglisi's wife, a registered nurse, took her to his house, and bound and assaulted her, police said.

On Friday, she managed to loosen her ropes and called 911. Police soon rescued her and arrested Flagg two hours later.

O'Neill expects to meet with Flagg, who is being held in Gander Hill Prison in Wilmington, for the first time this morning.

He said he would look at whether Flagg could receive an unbiased jury because of news reports, and whether Flagg's confession took place under conditions that did not violate his rights.

``We're going to try and look at every possibility,'' said O'Neill. ``Mr. Flagg has a difficult case to face.''

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