Retired Phila. judge dies in house fire

Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony DeFino in 2001 with his daughter Rosemarie, who was elected to the Common Pleas Court bench in 2002.
Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony DeFino in 2001 with his daughter Rosemarie, who was elected to the Common Pleas Court bench in 2002. (BONNIE WELLER / File Photograph)
Posted: November 26, 2013

This story was updated at 8:45 a.m.

Retired Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony Defino was killed in a fire in his South Philadelphia home Sunday night, officials said Monday.

The fire in the house on the 2500 block of South 20th Street around 7 p.m. and firefighters battled the blaze for about 45 minutes before bringing it under control.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. No other injuries were reported.

"It looked like mostly the back of the house was really engulfed in flames bad. The third floor, it looked like one of the bedrooms or the attic, they had the hardest time putting it out. It kept raising," said Mario Leonardo, who lives across the street from DeFino, 86, and his wife. "It was a pretty bad fire. It raged for a while back there. It looked like it was coming out of the attic."

Dora Massara, who lives next to the DeFinos, said the intense heat cracked the upstairs windows in her house. And as firefighters blasted the DeFinos' house with hoses, Massara said, water seeped into her basement. "It was very frightening," she said. "The flames were so tremendous."

DeFino, a graduate of Temple Law School, sentenced several notable criminals in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court – Thomas Jones, whose videotaped beating by Philadelphia police made national headlines in 2000; boxer Joe Frazier's son Hector, who was convicted of burglary, robbery, and theft; two men who burned a cross on a South Philadelphia driveway in 2004 to intimidate an interracial couple new to the neighborhood.

DeFino was also one-half of a duo that made a bit of Philadelphia judicial history – he and his daughter Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi were the first father and daughter ever to serve simultaneously as judges in the city. She is the sixth of his eight children. When she was elected a Common Pleas Court judge in 2002, she told The Inquirer, "I aspire to be the kind of judge he is. I admire the kind of judge my dad is."


jzauzmer@phillynews.com610-313-8207 @JulieZauzmer

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