After 30 years, infamous cheerleader Cheryl Pierson Cuccio is finally breaking her silence about why she committed this horrific crime. Cuccio discusses what led to her father’s murder. Plus, crime correspondent Melissa Moore weighs in on why the hitman says he carried out the crime.
In 1986, Cheryl was a 15-year-old popular teenage cheerleader who was being sexually abused by her father. No one, not even her boyfriend, now husband Rob Cuccio, knew about the abuse she was subjected to daily. Cheryl suffered in silence in fear that her father would make good on his threats and kill her if she ever told anyone.
“My father used to threaten me on a daily basis. He would say he’d kill me and kill anybody I ever told. I believed him”, she says.
After a rare night out with her boyfriend Rob, Cheryl returned home to see her father lying in bed with her younger sister, JoAnn, who was just eight years old at the time. With a smile on his face, he said, “Keep going out with your boyfriend, and you can be sure I’ll spend more time with your sister.” The mocking expression on his face left no mistake about what he meant— that he would abuse JoAnn if Cheryl didn’t comply.
In fear for her sister, Cheryl decided to take drastic action.
She came up with the idea of hiring a fellow junior, Sean Pica, to kill her father after being inspired by watching a local news report on a case of a woman who paid someone to kill her husband.
Cheryl approached Sean in their homeroom, “How much money would you do it for?” she asked him. Sean put set a price of $1000.00 for the hit.
On February 5, 1986, Sean Pica gunned down her father in front of their driveway. The deal was done, even though Cheryl insists she never thought Sean would actually go through with it. Despite her disbelief, her and her boyfriend Rob found only $400 to pay off the hitman.
“For the first time in my life, I felt safe. I was glad he was gone”, Cheryl says.
The hit didn’t stay a secret for long. Shortly after the shooting, Sean, Rob, and Cheryl were arrested.
In court hearings, it was the first time Cheryl revealed her claims of repeated sexual abuse. Her attorneys argued that she had no other option than homicide when her father threatened to abuse her eight-year-old sister. Neighbors and friends testified that they had their suspicions, but no one ever came forward to report it.
Cheryl was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation for conspiring to kill her father. Her boyfriend, now husband, Rob Cuccio got probation after pleading guilty to criminal solicitation.
The hitman Sean Pica, got the most severe sentencing and served 24 years in prison. He was released in 2002.
Cheryl says the reasons abused children do not tell are fearing no one will believe them and that they will be taken away and put in a foster home. Some fear they will be abused even more. Cheryl says during the abusive years, she had to take care of her little sister, cook, clean, and be the wife. Her own mom had been sick for years.
“I didn’t realize at that time that murder was so final,” Cuccio said. “I just wanted the problem to stop and go away.”
Now a 47-year-old mother, Cuccio is talking publicly about the horrors she has endured.
“I wish I hadn’t asked him, but I was desperate,” Cuccio said. She feared her father also had his sights set on her 8-year-old sister.
Melissa Moore spoke to Sean Pica personally. He told Moore he wanted to do something good and protect Cheryl after hearing of the abuse. Moore speaks to a lot of hardened criminals. She says Pica was quite different and was very likable. She says he is self-aware and just wanted to be a champion for Cheryl. During his incarceration he helped other inmates by teaching them how to read. He has a great career in a non-profit organization.
Oz: “As much misery as all of these people have suffered, they share a deep bond that will hold them together for life.”
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