published : 2023-10-01

Navy Veteran Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing 'Witch' Sister

'We hope Tony rots in prison with no chance of ever getting out,' Wendy Paoli's sons say at their uncle Anthony Dibella's New York sentencing

A photo of a Navy veteran, proud and strong, holding an American flag. (Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

A Navy veteran was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for killing his sister with a bayonet blade and awl after her penchant for watching true-crime content led him to believe she would kill their mother.

Before he was sentenced in September, 53-year-old Anthony Dibella told a judge in Jefferson County, New York, that he was officially diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders in 1994 after serving in operation Desert Storm, per courtroom minutes obtained by Inside Edition, in the hopes that he 'might get [some] help from a VA hospital instead of going to prison.'

On April 28, 2022, Dibella reported his sister's murder to 911 dispatchers, telling them 'Wanda Paoli is being killed, she is a witch killed with a knife and awl, and is currently on the porch' of their town of Lyme home, per court documents.

First responders found Paoli dead with stab wounds to the head, neck, and face, per court documents.

A close-up shot of a bayonet blade and awl, highlighting their sharpness and precision. (Taken with Nikon D850)

When officers arrived at the home he and Paoli shared, finding the deceased 67-year-old on the porch, Dibella allegedly told police that he 'had to do what I did to her because she was getting in the way of me communicating to God.'

Dibella was arrested after police found his 89-year-old mother unharmed inside and charged him with second-degree murder, assault with intent to cause serious injury, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Paoli's sons, Shawn and Josh, wrote that they hope Dibella 'rots in prison with no chance of ever getting out for what he has done' and that their convicted uncle was 'nothing to [them] now' in their impact statement shared at the Sept. 20 sentencing hearing.

Due to Paoli's 'obsess[ion] with reality shows about serial killers,' her recent purchase of a battery-powered chainsaw, and a minor bruise he spotted on his mother's hand, Dibella said at his sentencing that he was convinced that his sister intended to kill their mother.

An image depicting a person engrossed in watching true-crime content on a television screen. (Taken with Sony A7 III)

Dibella acknowledged that he 'stopped all [his] psychotropic medications' after 'attending a healing church service' in 2019, leading his 'paranoia to get the best of [him].' According to court documents, the veteran doubled down on his delusions in court, proclaiming, 'I believe without a shadow of a doubt that I saved my mother's life that day.'

Instead of being apologetic, per court documents, Dibella followed their statement with attempts to justify the killing.

Judge David Renzi admonished Dibella before handing down his sentence:

"I was very familiar with issues that could potentially be a mental health defense – those, of course, were negated when you entered a guilty plea to murder in the second degree," Renzi noted. "When we discussed that plea, you made it very clear to me that you intentionally caused the death of Wanda Paoli. You described it as unsound measures that you took. Well, it's more than that. You made a choice… to kill somebody."