In 1996, three young men robbed a convenience store in Baytown, Texas, and one of them shot the clerk dead. It was a crime that, sadly, has become commonplace, and police made little headway in solving it.
Fast forward to 1999. To help with expenses, Larry Monticolo and his family acquire a room mate, Thomas Dumais. They are shocked when Dumais begins talking about killing a store clerk during a robbery in Baytown. Larry’s wife calls police, and Larry offers to help them catch a killer. A hidden camera is installed in the Monticolo living room. Larry wears a “wire” to record conversations with Dumais in which Larry elicits more information about the crime, including the name of one accomplice, Shawn Pierce.
But when Dumais and Pierce are arrested, things take a turn for the bizarre. They finger Larry Monticolo as the third man—the trigger man—and Larry is charged with capital murder. The evidence against him? None, except the word of Dumais and Pierce, who work out lenient plea bargains for themselves in exchange for their testimony against Larry. Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler, who is prosecuting Larry, offers him a deal—plead guilty and get 35 years in prison, or take your chances of being convicted and sentenced to death.
Larry rejects the deal, but is emotionally devastated. He lost his left eye years before and has a glass prosthetic eye, so Larry is housed in the jail’s infirmary rather than with the general population. It is small comfort, since he’s exposed to all manner of infectious diseases. Larry cries through every visit with his mother, Bonnie Caraway. Bonnie tries to intervene on her son’s behalf, telling Assistant DA Siegler that Larry is innocent. “I don’t care,” Siegler tells her. “He’s going down for it.”
Seven months pass. Preparing to testify at Larry’s trial, Pierce repeats his story—Larry held the gun in his left hand and shot the clerk, who was at an angle off to Larry’s left. But Larry’s left eye is made of glass. He wouldn’t even be able to see someone to his left, much less aim and shoot. The frame up begins to unravel. The third man is identified. It’s Robert Holloway, not Larry Monticolo.
The capital murder charge against Larry Monticolo is dismissed, although the police detective who brought the charge against Larry to the prosecutor says he believes Larry was “involved” in the crime. All three of the robbers work out plea agreements. Thomas Dumais gets 35 years in prison, Shawn Pierce gets 10 years and Robert Holloway gets 15 years after pleading guilty to armed robbery. No one is charged with murder.
“Am I ever going to apologize to
Larry Monticolo?” asks Assistant DA Siegler. “No. The system
worked for him. He’s got no complaints.”