A Palm Coast man drove to the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center in Bunnell on Tuesday morning to be sentenced to 3½ years in prison on 10 counts of possession of child pornography.
But instead of walking into the courthouse, Mario ___, 47, remained in his truck and apparently shot himself to death outside the courthouse, according to a release from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
Mario had pleaded guilty to 10 counts of possession of child porn, which is punishable by up to 150 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
But the plea agreement reached between his defense attorney and prosecutors called for Mario to serve 42 months in state prison followed by 11 years of sex offender probation. He also had to register as a sex offender.
The sentencing was scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. Mario instead called 9-1-1 as he sat in his truck according to the phone call released by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. In the call, Mario calmly tells the dispatcher where his body can be found.
“I’m at the Flagler County Courthouse, I drive a white Toyota pickup truck and that’s where you’ll find my remains,” Mario said.
The sheriff’s office, Bunnell Police and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly responded to the scene and found Mario unresponsive in the driver’s seat. Paramedics arrived but Mario was pronounced dead from an apparent gunshot to the head, the release stated.
Palm Coast man was arrested in May 2020
Mario was arrested in May 2020 when he was charged with 30 felony counts of possession of images of sexual performance by a child.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Cyber Crimes Unit began investigating Mario after receiving a tip from Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) in December of 2019.
The investigation led to a search of Mario’s home in which detectives seized several electronic devices. A forensic analysis of the devices found numerous images and videos of child pornography. The Florida Highway Patrol arrested Mario in May 2020.
“It is unfortunate that rather than accept responsibility for his crimes Mario decided to take his own life,” according to a statement from Staly. “Our Cybercrimes Unit did an excellent job building a strong case against Mario and he knew he was likely going to prison. It is unfortunate this was the solution he chose, which will again affect innocent people.”
In the release, the sheriff’s office stated that “suicide is never the answer and that there are many resources available to help those who wish to seek it out, especially in your darkest moments.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted at 1-800-273-8255 or on the web at FlaglerLifeline.org.