Pasquale J. Piscitelli, better known as Pat, died the other day at the incredibly young age of 58. He was riding an exercise bike.
His name is not famous in Utah, but he happened to be one of the two or three most prominent criminal attorneys in the state of Massachusetts.Probably one of the most prominent attorneys in the entire country.
He and his wife, Meredith, were our first friends in Massachusetts when we moved there from Utah in 1969 - as young kids going out into the world. They lived in the duplex behind ours, and when all our earthly belongings failed to show up when we did, Pat and Merry moved heaven and earth to make us welcome.
We had sleeping bags, but they brought TV trays, plates and cups, eating utensils, and anything else they could think of to help us survive.
We never forgot it.
After looking at them as "old shoe" types who would do anything in the world for us even though they had never seen us before, we discovered that Pat was fast moving up the ladder of fame and fortune.
Our daughter Kelly played with their daughter Julie, and we had an easy relationship that grew. Even when Pat and Merry moved into a posh home of their own, they kept in touch. Later, we moved too, only because the Piscitelli family home was up for rent and Pat and his mother wanted someone in it they could trust.
We loved that frame home on Crescent Street - and we also loved the older woman who lived upstairs, a delightful Piscitelli relative named Lillian Nickodemo, who was hard of hearing. Although we had difficulty communicating (we yelled and she read our lips), Lillian became the surrogate grandmother for our family.
When we also moved into our own home we kept in touch with Lillian - until she was tragically killed while walking across the street in front of the house we used to share.
In the meantime, Pat took on all the headline cases. Following in F. Lee Bailey's footsteps, he became the attorney for the Boston Strangler.
He defended Frederick Doane, believed to be the first man in the United States to be tried for prostitution. Pat's argument that every statutory, historical and biblical reference defined prostitution as a woman's crime forced the Legislature to change the law to include men.
His most famous recent case was his successful defense of Anne Capute, the nurse acquitted in 1981 of charges that she killed a terminally ill cancer patient with morphine. It was a celebrated mercy killing that became so famous it was the subject of a book and a TV movie.
Pat took on numerous other celebrated cases. Only a month ago he represented a man who received a $2.6 million award from a superior court jury for disabling injuries the man received when struck by a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Bus.
Fellow lawyers regarded Pat as one of the very best. He was fluent, aggressive, always prepared, and other attorneys and budding attorneys loved to watch him in the courtroom. He was famous for agile cross-examination skills, the kind of charismatic attorney you could imagine starring in a Paul Newman movie - looking impressive with his gray hair, erect bearing and three-piece suit.
According to one attorney who knew him well, "He'd take a one-page police report and turn it into a three-volume text."
Even while Pat was becoming famous, he kept his friendship with us. One of the last contacts we had with Pat before we left Massachusetts was to invite him to speak at a church-sponsored education series.
He unhesitatingly accepted my invitation and mesmerized the large audience with his fascinating account of how to choose just the right jury to enable an attorney to successfully defend a client.
The interesting thing about Pat Piscitelli is that fame did not ruin him.
To lose him at the peak of an amazing career is tragic - to Merry and the kids - and scores of people whose lives he touched - or saved.