News State Victoria News A dead dog, an eggplant and a shotgun: The mix that left dad dead and his mate in jail

A dead dog, an eggplant and a shotgun: The mix that left dad dead and his mate in jail

Angelo Russo is escorted into court for sentencing. Photo: AAP/Joe Castro
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Moments after sympathetically ending his injured dog’s life, Victorian farmer Angelo Russo stumbled, possibly on an eggplant, and shot a man dead.

On a day of “utter tragedy” and “a good deal of bad luck” at a Goulburn Valley farm, father-of-two David Calandro was killed in the driver’s seat of his ute as his young sons looked on in horror.

Russo, 55, pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the February, 2017, death, which happened shortly after Mr Calandro ran over and hurt Harry the dog.

Both men knew each other and Mr Calandro had been at Russo’s Tatura farm with his sons to pick peppers.

The eggplant believed to have tripped Russo, causing his shotgun to discharge. Photo: Vic Supreme Court

An emotional Russo had just euthanased his dog and was still holding the shotgun as he approached Mr Calandro’s ute.

But he stumbled, hitting the barrel on the driver’s window.

Unknown to Russo, the gun was faulty and could fire when bumped, which it did, shooting Mr Calandro in the head.

Russo was sentenced in the Supreme Court on Friday to five years’ jail with a minimum term of two-and-a-half years.

“David Calandro took his two young sons Flavian and Anton on what was supposed to be a pleasant jaunt to pick peppers on a farm,” Justice Michael Croucher said.

“Regrettably, as a result of a series of ever-worsening decisions, first by Mr Calandro and then by Mr Russo, things turned very bad very quickly, and ultimately to utter tragedy.”

Originally Mr Calandro had driven off without stopping when he hit the dog, which had been chasing the ute in the driveway.

But he later returned to “confess”.

Justice Croucher said Russo had “anger in his heart but no violence in mind” when he approached Mr Calandro’s ute.

“Before either man could say anything, Mr Russo stumbled, possibly on an eggplant, causing the barrel of the gun to strike the driver’s side window.”

Mr Calandro was shot in front of his two sons in a “ghastly” scene, the judge said.

“The boys screamed and got out of the car. They were crying and in shock.”

Flavian, who was injured by the shattered glass, now struggles to sleep at night and wakes crying. His school work is suffering as a result.

Anton wrote in his victim impact statement that he misses kicking the football with his dad.

“If he had a magic wand, he would make his dad come alive again,” the judge said.

The judge said Russo should not have been holding the loaded gun with people around, particularly in his emotional state.

But the registered gun owner had only recently bought the weapon second-hand and was not aware it was faulty.

“It might be said that there’s a good deal of bad luck involved,” Justice Croucher said.

“People simply must be careful around guns, lest tragic accidents like this occur.”

Russo is sorry for what he has done and is a man of good character with no prior criminal history, the judge said.


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