Del. Man Ordered To Stand Trial On Murder, Sex-assault Charges At A 35-minute Hearing, A New Castle County Detective Recounted Donald Flagg's Confession.

Posted: May 05, 1998

WILMINGTON — Murder suspect Donald Flagg's hands lay limp on his lap as he listened to his lawyer suggest in a Delaware courtroom yesterday that the fatal shooting of a funeral home director may have been an accident.

The lawyer, public defender James Brendan O'Neill, asked New Castle County Police Detective Dominick Gregory at a preliminary hearing for Flagg whether his client had told police the shooting of Anthony Puglisi Jr. was an accident.

``He just indicated Mr. Puglisi surprised him and he shot him,'' Gregory, who took Flagg's statement, said.

At the conclusion of the 35-minute hearing, Court of Common Pleas Commissioner Arlene Minus Coppadge ruled that there was enough evidence for Flagg, 40, of Bear, Del., to be bound over for trial in the murder and sexual-assault case. He is being held without bail at Gander Hill Prison.

``You will be heard in Superior Court on all these charges,'' said Coppadge.

Hearing that, Flagg, dressed in orange prison overalls, clenched his hands into a ball and then released them.

Flagg is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape, and use of a firearm during a felony.

On April 20, police say, he sneaked into the Puglisis' Newark home through a patio door, and killed Anthony Puglisi Jr., 50, when he returned home.

Then, police say, he ambushed Debra Puglisi, 46, when she came inside, raped her in the basement, tied her with rope, wrapped a comforter around her body, and tossed her in the trunk of his green Plymouth Duster.

Police say he then took her to his house less than five miles away, where he raped and assaulted her several times over four days. Gregory testified that Debra Puglisi suffered facial bruises, swollen hands and feet from the ropes, a broken toe, and emotional scars.

On the night of April 24, Debra Puglisi managed to loosen her ropes and call 911. Police rescued her and arrested Flagg at the Chrysler plant in Newark two hours later.

Police say he told them that he was driving by the Puglisi house, spotted Debra Puglisi, and ``wanted her.''

During the hearing, Flagg's head was bowed, his shoulders hunched. He kept his eyes closed or stared at his fingers.

Not once did he look at Gregory, seated in the witness box, who vividly described how Flagg, a Chrysler autoworker, confessed to police that he killed Anthony Puglisi and abducted and repeatedly raped Debra Puglisi over four days

O'Neill sought to paint Flagg as being cooperative with police, an assessment with which Gregory agreed.

At no point during the hearing did O'Neill dispute or question the alleged confession. Nor did he challenge the motive for the killing and rape provided by Gregory.

``He advised me that he wanted to kidnap somebody,'' said Gregory. ``He told Mrs. Puglisi up front that he liked what he saw, that she was pretty.''

At one point, Gregory demonstrated how Flagg allegedly killed Anthony Puglisi with a .38-caliber gun at point-blank range: He pointed a finger at his forehead.

``The cause of death was a gunshot, at close contact,'' said Gregory. ``Right in the middle of the eyes.''

Gregory, questioned by Deputy Attorney General Mark H. Conner, said Flagg told police they could find a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver in his bedroom closet. Police found the gun there, along with bullets that were ``lead and non-jacketed,'' said Gregory.

The bullet pulled out of Anthony Puglisi's skull was a .38-caliber, lead, non-jacketed bullet, Gregory testified.

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