Thomas Bianco is the only man to ever serve time for the killing of Julie Monson.
Bianco briefly dated Monson in high school — a relationship friends say started on a class trip, where Bianco and Monson were seen holding hands one evening. But the relationship ended within weeks. Some of Monson’s friends say the two would speak to each other in the halls, but they felt Bianco was deeply affected by the breakup.
John Bazarnik was a close friend of Bianco’s, and the first person to hear Bianco’s tale of what happened between him and Julie Monson the night she disappeared. Bianco told Bazarnik that he’d waved Monson down and talked her into his car, then tried to force her into performing a sex act. She refused, Bianco told Bazarnik, and tried to get away, several times, Bazarnik testified. Bianco said he tackled her, and she possibly hit her head. He told Bazarnik he turned her over to another man — someone he didn’t know — and told the man he’d met him at Cayuga Lake State Park. After realizing he didn’t have enough gas, he said, he went home and went to bed.
Shortly after he told that story to Bazarnik, Bianco’s family hired attorney William Lynn of Syracuse to represent their son. Soon afterward, Bianco checked in to Hutchings Psychiatric Center.
Bianco didn’t stop talking. Close friend Thomas Calescibetta said that later that summer at a bar in Lansing, Bianco admitted to him that he was responsible for Monson’s death. Though Calescibetta’s version of the story differed from Bazarnik’s, Bianco told both men that Monson had refused his advances, and tried to run away. But Calescibetta said Bianco told him he ran Monson down with his car, then stabbed her. Forensic evidence at trial would later show Monson’s leg was broken, and holes in her clothing were consistent with stab wounds.
Bianco also showed a girlfriend, Mary Katherine Wilson, where Monson’s body was, long before it was discovered at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. And he joked about Monson’s death to friends in Florida that he killed her, saying “I’m not stupid; I raped her first.”
Bianco’s confessions to friends were inconsistent. And Calescibetta would later recant his testimony, claiming it was coerced by his own attorney and the district attorney, who he said threatened to send him to jail for perjury if he did not testify against Bianco.
Bianco was tried and convicted, sentenced to 25 years to life for Monson’s killing. But his lawyers tirelessly worked on his appeal, citing Calescibetta’s recantation, the fact that Bazarnik was questioned seven times before implicating Bianco, and accusing the District Attorney’s office of withholding evidence, including a list of other suspects that had been considered. The defense also presented an affidavit from Mark Sweeting, who claimed Calescibetta had admitted that he (Calescibetta), along with James Vasile and John Corning, raped Julie Monson at Vasile’s house, then killed her as she attempted to flee from a moving car.
Bianco was initially freed, and a new trial ordered. But that decision was overturned, and he was sent back to prison. Again the defense appealed, and again Bianco was freed, this time for good. Judge Patrick Monserrate released Bianco after determining former District Attorney Paul Carbonaro, who tried the case, had purposely withheld 30 lines from police reports turned over to the defense before trial — 30 lines that mentioned another man, an ex-convict named John Grossman. Monserrate sealed the court files.
Then-District Attorney James Vargason announced he would not retry the case against Bianco.
Bianco later married his attorney, Randi Juda.