Monday, March 10, 2014

Theodore "Rocky" Salanti -- Silk Stalkings Trunk Murder

Following the advice of his doctor, the Pittsburgh native relocated to San Diego in a bid to find relief from an acute sinus condition.  A draftsman by trade, Salanti apparently gave up the profession in San Diego and, as a member of the Screen Actors Guild, briefly pursued a career in the early 1990s appearing in bit parts on the television shows Silk Stalkings (filmed in the city) and Renegade.  By 2005, the 57 year old was allegedly a drug user who dealt methamphetamine.  On September 30, 2005, a friend (unable to reach Salanti after repeated phone calls) drove to the former actor's condominium in the San Diego suburb of Santee.  Confronted at the door by an overwhelmingly foul odor and suspecting the worst, the man immediately called 911.  Paramedics forced their way into the residence and were overcome by what one called "the smell of death" emanating from a large green suitcase covered in a blanket by the front door.  The place had been ransacked, blood was everywhere, the carpet torn up in several areas, and holes punched in the wall.  Drag marks on the bloody floor from the suitcase led from a back room to the front door.  The case was opened to reveal a badly decomposed "Rocky" Salanti, bound and gagged with duct tape, stuffed inside.  Amid obvious signs of a struggle inside the condominium, several items appeared to be missing including Salanti's car.  An autopsy confirmed Salanti had been dead for several days with death attributed to "homicidal violence including asphyxiation."  Simply stated, the duct tape over Salanti's face caused him to suffocate as his assailant searched the residence for items to steal.

Photo:  KGTV

On October 12, 2005, police arrested Amy Heather Davis, 25, an "escort" Salanti had met two years earlier in an internet chat room.  Addicted to meth, Davis once stole $30,000 from Salanti, but he forgave her despite being warned by friends to terminate the relationship.  In custody, Davis told authorities she was standing outside Salanti's condo smoking a cigarette on September 23, 2005, when two men approached and forced her at knifepoint to help the rob the former actor.  She did so under duress and the influence of her drug addiction.  At trial in San Diego on March 12, 2007, Davis faced a first-degree murder charge with special circumstances (murder committed during a robbery).  If convicted, she would receive an automatic sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  Rather than an unwilling participant in the crime, Davis was painted by the prosecution as a woman who betrayed Salanti's friendship for the opportunity to rob him of drugs and cash.  She knew the combination to Salanti's safe, and more damningly, her fingerprints were found on the duct tape used to bind the Silk Stalkings bit player.  Three days into the proceedings, a mistrial was declared after the evidence of a polygraph test administered to Davis was inadvertently entered into the trial record.  A new jury was quickly impaneled and after deliberating for three days found Davis guilty of first-degree murder with special circumstances on April 11, 2007.  As of March 2014, Inmate #X28708 was incarcerated at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.

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