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Ex-Florida principal accused of fatally stabbing 2 in violent crime spree

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:54 PM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anthony Giancola is in custody on 2 first-degree murder counts, with more charges possible
  • Witnesses say he stabbed 4 people at a group home for the hearing impaired, a sheriff says
  • The suspect is accused of assaulting two others, and hitting five more with a vehicle
  • Authorities caught Giancola, then a principal, buying crack cocaine in his office in 2007

(CNN) -- A former Florida middle school principal stabbed four people Friday at a group home for the hearing impaired, killing two of them, then struck five others with a car, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

The suspect -- identified by the sheriff's office as Anthony Giancola -- was taken into police custody after being tracked down by K-9 unit members. He has been arrested and formally booked on two counts of first-degree murder, sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.

Authorities said they first learned around 10:45 a.m. that four people had been stabbed at the group home in Lealman, a community just north of St. Petersburg.

One man, later identified as 27-year-old Justin Lee Vanderbergh, was pronounced dead at the scene, the sheriff's office said.

Three women were sent to a local hospital, where one of them -- 59-year-old Mary Anne Allis -- ended up succumbing to her injuries. The other two, ages 25 and 43, suffered what the sheriff's office said were non-life-threatening injuries. All four stabbed were the only residents of the one-story home, Barreda said.

After talking with witnesses, authorities identified the suspect as the 45-year-old Giancola.

The suspect fled the scene and headed toward a motel in nearby Pinellas Park, where a man and woman were assaulted, authorities said. The sheriff's office said the man's injuries "appear to be life-threatening."

From there, the suspect left and is thought to have spoken briefly to people outside a duplex before abruptly leaving, then returning in his vehicle -- slamming into three women and one man in the process. The women were all transported to an area hospital, while the man chose not to go.

The sheriff's office said the suspect then drove west and struck another person, this time a 13-year-old boy. The child suffered only minor injuries.

The suspect ended up at the Egg Platter restaurant in Pinellas Park, where he left his vehicle, entered another vehicle and fled. He was detained shortly after 1 p.m., the sheriff's office said.

Barreda explained that the sheriff's office is only responsible for levying charges in certain areas, adding that Giancola could face more charges from police in other jurisdictions for the alleged assaults and hit-and-runs.

He is now in Pinellas County Jail awaiting his initial court appearance. It was not clear whether he had retained a lawyer.

This is not Giancola's first run-in with the law.

In February 2007, when he was a principal at a middle school in Hillsborough County, he was caught buying crack cocaine from an undercover police officer -- an exchange captured on video that happened inside his principal's office while school was in session.

Months later, he pleaded guilty and that June told CNN that there was "no excuse for my behavior." Giancola said at his sentencing that he hoped to become a drug counselor after being released from jail.

"Before I could ever hope to go on and help anyone again, I need to help myself," Giancola told CNN. "I'm very thankful I was arrested, and it kind of brought that crazy train to an end."

Then, in early 2010, Giancola was arrested again and charged on two counts -- intent to purchase cocaine and loitering -- according to online records from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

CNN's Greg Botelho and Chandler Friedman contributed to this report.

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