PALM HARBOR Edward Graziano was accused Thursday of hiring a hit man to kill his estranged wife, Debra, 18 months after the couple's son was severely injured in an automobile accident with Hulk Hogan's son.
Graziano, 53, was arrested Thursday at his home in Palm Harbor after a 2-month investigation, according to a statement released by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He was taken to Pinellas County Jail.
Detectives said earlier this week Graziano paid $1,100 in cash, a $1,000 personal check and a $13.06 gift card to Westshore Pizza to have his wife murdered.
Graziano held "multiple meetings and negotiations with a tipster and an undercover detective posing as 'go-between' to a 'hit man,' " the report says. The meetings were held at various public places, including "shopping malls, a hospital and a gas station" in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
During the meetings, Graziano, the "tipster" and the undercover agent "ironed out the details of how the murder was to be conducted and the amount to be paid," according to the report.
Detectives say Graziano told deputies he wanted to have his wife killed by having her become involved in an automobile accident. He further provided his wife's schedule, in order to give the 'go-between' possible options on days to conduct the hit and ensure an alibi for himself, the report says.
Graziano's motive appears to be "a culmination of divorce-related financial issues," the report says.
Debra Graziano said she had heard few details of the alleged plot. "It couldn't be any worse than what's happened to my son,'' she said. She declined further comment.
She first heard about the allegations in December through attorney George Tragos, who represents John Graziano in a lawsuit against the Bollea family. Tragos said he was on the case by sheriff's deputies.
"Debbie Graziano is saddened by this. She can't believe this family can continue to suffer more tragedy than it has," Tragos said. "Her primary concern is still for John and will continue to be for John."
Tragos said there is good security at the V.A. hospital where Debra Graziano works, and the Sheriff's Office stepped up patrols around her house.
Had Tragos ever seen anything like this? "I've seen this on TV, but I don't think I've experienced it in real life," he said.
Kimberly Kohn, the other attorney representing Graziano in his civil suit, said this came as a complete surprise.
"I don't believe that it should affect the civil case because this is about John Graziano and I would hope the public wouldn't hold it against john the actions of his father, if they turn out to be true."
The attorneys said the Graziano parents have not filed for divorce.
Linda Bollea referred questions to her publicist, Gary Smith, who said she was "not surprised this happened. He's a very violent, very evil man. He was that way to his own kids and to his own wife.''
Smith said Linda Bollea offered Debra Graziano emotional and financial support, so Edward Graziano "hated them both with a passion.'' He said he heard that Linda Bollea's "name was dropped'' by Graziano during the investigation.
The family made national headlines after their son, John, was severely injured during an automobile accident on Aug. 26, 2007. John Graziano suffered a major brain injury after Nick Bollea lost control of his Toyota Supra and crashed into a palm tree near downtown Clearwater.
Bollea, the son of wrestler Hulk Hogan, served five months in jail after pleading no contest to reckless driving.
In an interview last May, Edward Graziano said of Debra Graziano, "My wife is the best mother there is in the world."