Police: Suspect fled to Europe, wanted to fight IS group

AP News
Posted: Mar 03, 2016 6:00 PM
Police: Suspect fled to Europe, wanted to fight IS group

ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) — A former Alabama jailer is accused of fathering a child with a 15-year-old girl before fleeing to Europe years later and boasting to a bed and breakfast owner that he wanted to join Syrian rebels as a sniper to fight the Islamic State group.

Sheriff's investigators said Thursday that penchant for bragging was his undoing: A Croatian bed and breakfast owner slipped a note in his passport to authorities at a border crossing last month, telling them Pirritano was wanted overseas.

DNA testing showed that David Alan Pirritano, a 54-year-old former Calhoun County corrections officer, fathered a child with a girl 15 years ago. She is now 30. Authorities had been investigating allegations that her daughter was raped by a boyfriend when they learned Pirritano was the father.

"It never came to light, the relationship between Pirritano and the victim, until the victim's child — who is now 15 years old — became a victim herself," said Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson.

Pirritano fled to Frankfurt, Germany, in June and was detained Jan. 10 when authorities at a border crossing in Croatia learned that he was a fugitive in the United States, Amerson said. He was booked into the county jail Feb. 25 and is being held on a $100,000 bond on rape and other charges.

Pirritano traveled throughout Europe while he evaded authorities and eventually began staying at a Croatian bed and breakfast that catered to cyclists. He forged a relationship with the owner, who thought it was odd that a visitor would show up on foot in an area popular with cyclists.

"As that relationship grew, Mr. Pirritano apparently liked to brag, and he informed the gentleman there that he was wanted in the U.S.," Amerson said, later adding that Pirritano told the man he wanted to join Syrian rebels as a sniper to fight the Islamic State.

Paul Daymond, spokesman of the FBI's Birmingham division, declined to comment in an email.

Pirritano asked the owner of the bed and breakfast to take him to a border crossing, and Amerson said the man alerted border agents to Pirritano's fugitive status by hiding a note in his passport. U.S. authorities had already put out a notice about Pirritano to Interpol, and he was detained at the border.

It wasn't immediately clear which country Pirritano was looking to enter from Croatia, and authorities said the owner of the bed and breakfast also used a link on the department's website to send them a message about Pirritano.

During the investigation, Pirritano's 55-year-old wife, Tammy Rogers Pirritano, told authorities her husband quit his job and asked to be taken to the Atlanta airport in June. But she said she didn't know where he went.

Investigators determined she did have information on her husband's whereabouts and had been wiring him money while he was abroad. She's been charged with hindering prosecution and is out on $7,500 bond, said Assistant District Attorney Randy Moeller. She was arrested Feb. 17.

David Pirritano is charged with rape and having sex with a minor, Moeller said. It's unclear if he or Tammy Pirritano have attorneys, Amerson said. A phone number listed under Tammy Pirritano's name rang unanswered Thursday.

Court dates have not yet been set.