A California man arrested in the murder of his stepdaughter, whose Fitbit data investigators used to allegedly solve her killing, has died while awaiting trial, authorities said.
Tony Aiello, 91, was pronounced dead Tuesday after being taken to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Hospital in San Jose because of his “deteriorating health” from pre-existing conditions, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Aiello was transported to the hospital Aug. 22 as he awaited trial in the gruesome killing of his stepdaughter, 67-year-old Karen Navarra, whose death on Sept. 8, 2018 appeared to be staged as a suicide, police said.
After failing to show up for work, Navarra’s body was found in her home Sept. 13. She was discovered slumped over a chair, holding a large kitchen knife, with a “gaping” slit in her neck, officials said.
But an autopsy revealed the pharmacy technician had suffered deep wounds to her head and face, which doctors said could not have been self-inflicted.
Investigators said Aiello told them he visited Navarra the day of her death to bring her pizza. He said he later saw her drive by his own home with someone else in the car, but security footage obtained by police showed she never had driven in that area that day.
Navarra was wearing a Fitbit Alta HR when she was found. Investigators checked the data logged by the fitness device and found it showed a significant spike in her heart rate at 3:20 p.m. Sept. 8 before rapidly slowing, officials said.
The Fitbit reportedly stopped registering Navarra’s heart rate data at 3:28 p.m.
Aiello’s car was parked in his stepdaughter’s driveway from 3:12 p.m. to at least 3:33 p.m., surveillance video near Navarra’s home reportedly showed.
Police also allegedly found blood splatter in Aiello’s garage, but he denied having anything to do with his stepdaughter’s death.
A motive for the alleged killing was not immediately clear. Aiello was arrested last September and booked into Santa Clara County Jail for murder. He was being held without bail.
Aiello had been hospitalized nearly a dozen times since he was arrested, leaving his loved ones concerned he would not live long enough to make it to trial.
“His life is in jeopardy,” Aiello’s daughter, Annette, told The Mercury News in August. “We’re hoping he survives, or else he won’t get his day in court.”
Aiello’s attorney said the jail in which he was kept could not handle his medical and nutritional needs, while the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office contended he was receiving adequate care and treatment at the Main Jail’s medical unit.
Deputy District Attorney Victoria Robinson said in August she saw no evidence convincing her Aiello should be released, arguing the crime scene alluded to his “level of violence and deception.”
“Our foremost concern in this case is public safety,” Robinson said in a written statement to the Mercury News in August. “The defendant was capable of an extremely violent murder just months ago.”