A former school principal who is the prime suspect in an alleged crime spree Friday that injured 11 people, killing two, has a history of crack cocaine abuse and drug arrests.
Anthony Joseph Giancola, 45, of St. Petersburg is being questioned by investigators for a violent crime spree at four locations: an assault at a Haines Road motel, a group home stabbing that killed two, and a pair of hit-and-runs.
Late Friday night, Giancola was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder for the group home stabbings. Officials said they expected more charges to follow.
But Giancola's troubles started long before the alleged violent rampage in south Pinellas County Friday.
In 2007, he was arrested for buying $20 worth of crack cocaine from an undercover detective. Giancola made the buy at work: he was seated in the principal's office at Van Buren Middle School. The entire incident was caught on videotape.
He resigned from his job as middle school principal the next day.
On June 12, 2007, he was sentenced to just under a year in the Hillsborough County Jail. Giancola was released early on three years' probation.
Giancola seems to have bounced around since then, with addresses in the Tyrone Bouelvard area of St. Petersburg and most recently in Pinellas Park.
On Jan. 30, 2010, Giancola was charged with cocaine possession and loitering and prowling. Giancola was released Feb. 2, 2010.
When he was arrested, Giancola was parked at 54th Avenue North in St. Petersburg. According to media reports, police found drugs and a butcher knife at his feet.
On Friday, social media sites buzzed with news about the bizarre crime rampage involving the former educator.
On Tumblr, kitsunedango wrote about Friday's crime spree and recalled Giancola's firing from her school five years ago:
"So today i saw my principle from my middle school on the news, he was arrested at my school for dealing crack and now i found this. Dont know why he did this , he was a good guy before. just shows what drugs can do."
Promising Career, Signs of Trouble
Prior to his crack cocaine arrest in 2007, Giancola was a career educator who had worked with emotionally troubled children at a special Tampa school and then was promoted to principal at Van Buren Middle School in 2006, according to an article in the St. Petersburg Times.
Giancola had overseen special education at Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa prior to that.
But there were signs of trouble in Ginacola's life even as he rising through the ranks as educator, the Times reported. He had to take a leave absence from his work because of health problems from obesity.
In 1990, Giancola had filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court.