By ANDREW GANT, Staff writer
February 20, 2011 12:05 AM
A Port Orange man whose ex-girlfriend was found slain in her home is an ex-convict who stabbed and killed a younger man after a late-night argument 30 years ago.
Joseph B. Matassa, 59, has not been charged in Pamela Corte's death. He was in police custody Saturday after a chase through Jacksonville in which the car he was driving lurched through a ditch, crashed through a fence and landed on its side in a mangled wreck.
Police did not name any suspects in the death of the 55-year-old Corte, who was found dead Friday in her home when a state trooper came to tell her about the crash.
But friends of Corte's said they knew about Matassa's past because Corte mentioned it in the weeks before she died. "She just told us that he did it before, and he'd do it again," said Gina D'Alessio, the manager at Mario's Restaurant in Ormond Beach, where Corte waited tables for three years. "That's all she said, and then she never spoke about it."
D'Alessio and others said Corte filed a report about Matassa with Port Orange police, but police did not confirm that Saturday. Many of Corte's friends at the restaurant offered her a place to stay away from him, but she declined. The exact nature of the relationship between Corte and Matassa was unclear -- neighbors said they had lived together for about 20 years -- but friends said Corte recently started dating someone else, and Matassa was angry.
His 1983 manslaughter conviction was reported in a story in The Hartford (Conn.) Courant, obtained Saturday by The News-Journal. Matassa, initially charged with murder in the December 1981 stabbing of Gary Bryda, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter shortly after his trial started. Matassa, then 30, stabbed the 22-year-old Bryda in the chest after a late-Saturday-night argument in nearby New Britain, the Courant reported.
At the time, Matassa already had a criminal record. Newspaper accounts show that at 16, he spent time in reform school after police said he stole a car and struggled with officers who stopped him. At 18, he was charged with breaking and entering and theft. At 22, he was charged with threatening to kill a man in a restaurant parking lot in Portland, Conn. When he was arrested in the Bryda stabbing, police said Matassa had a gun and a knife sitting on the front seat of his car.
Port Orange police remained tight-lipped Saturday about their investigation into Corte's death, which Assistant Chief Wayne Miller said appeared suspicious and "was not a random act." Miller referred all questions to Capt. Frank Surmaczewicz, who did not return multiple messages Saturday.
Matassa, meanwhile, was in Jacksonville Sheriff's Office custody at a "non-jail facility" on a Florida Highway Patrol charge of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries, according to jail records. Authorities did not release a photo of Matassa or specify where he was being held.
Matassa, who neighbors said has only one leg and uses a motorized scooter for transport, initially was airlifted to Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center in critical condition after the crash Friday morning. By that evening, he was no longer listed as a patient there. The Sheriff's Office said he was charged with the felony just after 10:30 p.m.
FHP Lt. Bill Leeper told the Jacksonville-based Florida Times Union that Corte's purse was in the wrecked car, and a trooper discovered her stabbed to death upon visiting her Nixon Lane home to notify her of the crash. Police did not specify Corte's official cause of death, and investigators were working with the medical examiner's office on the case.