He cut up his father's body; will he get $800K inheritance?

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News
The Ocean Breeze Golf Club in Boca Raton, Florida is seen before its foreclosure in 2016.  Pieces of James Scandirito's dismembered body were found inside plastic bags buried in a shallow grave at the closed golf club in 2018.

Jimmy Scandirito II cut his father into pieces and buried most of him at an abandoned golf course. That, we know.

James "Skip" Scandirito, a former Macomb County judge with a shady history, left behind an estate worth $800,000. We know that, too.

James "Skip" Scandirito was found dismembered in Palm Beach County, Florida.

As Jimmy awaits sentencing Friday in Palm Beach County, Florida, what's unknown is this: Will he inherit his father's money? The same father he's blaming for driving him to drugs, dissolution and dismemberment?

Jimmy, 50, who grew up in Harrison Township, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for mutilating a dead body. Prosecutors had said desperation was his motive for murder — his own money had run out, his father had cut him off, and he saw no other way to indulge his tastes for luxury cars, cocaine and young women from Brazil and Colombia.

The jury didn't see things quite the same way the prosecution did on the issue of first-degree murder. But there's still a roadblock between Jimmy and the bank.

"Our contention," says his lawyer, Howard Poznanski of Boca Raton, "is that Mr. Scandirito was in no way responsible for the death of his father. As a result, he is the one who should inherit his father's estate."

James "Jimmy" Scandirito II was found guilty of dismembering his father, but not killing him.

Skip Scandirito's sister and niece disagree. Under what's known as a "slayer statute," Sharon Scobel of Columbus, Indiana, and Ellen Scandirito of Madison Heights have filed suit to disqualify Jimmy and claim the estate.

"If we don't get a nickel and Jimmy doesn't get it, we don't care," Scobel says. "If it all goes to the lawyers, fine."

Otherwise, the two have declined to comment on the case since the trial ended in March. There is no shortage of detail and disgust, however, from friends, testimony, news reports and historical records.

"Jimmy told lies. He told so many lies, it's hard to keep track of," attorney Stephen Arbuzow told the jury.

"It's easy to hate him."

Arbuzow, a public defender, was Jimmy's lawyer. Prosecutors were even more scalding.

The one person who might have spoken most highly of him, at least until the night he died, was his dad.

Skip, 74, and Jimmy, an only child, were more than father and son. They were golf buddies, playing almost every Sunday. They were drinking buddies. They shared interests in politics, barbecue and any sports team with Detroit in its name.

On March 28, 2018, they were also sharing drinks and marijuana-laced chocolates. Jimmy told police he believed they had snorted from the same hors d'oeuvre plate of cocaine, though an autopsy found no traces in Skip's system.

Jimmy ultimately claimed that he stepped outside his father's 1,900-square-foot Boca Raton home to smoke a cigarette, came back and found him dead.

In that situation, most people would go to the police.

Jimmy went to Home Depot.

'Sugar daddy'

Jimmy holds a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy, but in Florida, he worked in real estate.

In 2015, he earned $220,000. Three years later, he couldn't make his rent payments and he'd walked away from his $768-per-month Mercedes.

He'd been divorced from a bright young Brazilian with limited English skills. For income, he was ferrying Uber and Lyft passengers in his late mother's Toyota Prius.

It was a steep tumble from the life he'd led 12 years ago when he recognized Bob Page in the lobby of their building in Aventura, 17 miles north of Miami.

Page, 67, had been a sportscaster in Detroit and New York. Like Skip Scandirito, he's a Michigan State alumnus. With bonds in geography and athletics, the three became friends.

At least for awhile, Jimmy seemed comically roguish. Post-divorce, he had moved north to Delray Beach, where he installed a stripper pole in his condo. He told Page that he was meeting women on a website called SugarDaddy.com.

"You don't have enough money to be a sugar daddy," Page pointed out, and Jimmy laughed.

"They don't know that," he said.

Jimmy could be combative when he was drunk, Page says, but it was a pair of sober incidents that made him back away from their friendship.

Skip liked to volunteer at the Honda Classic, a professional golf tournament in late February in Palm Beach Gardens. He would get tickets for Jimmy and Page, and they'd wave to him when he passed by.

The last time they went, Page says, Jimmy sneaked behind a fence near the front of a long line for courtesy shuttles, popped out and boarded a bus, ignoring a challenge from an irate man behind him.

"I was mortified," Page says. Later, in the crowded parking lot of a sort of upscale Hooters father and son had chosen for a post-round drink, Jimmy pulled into a handicapped space and gleefully hung his mother's old blue tag from his rear-view mirror.

"I don't think I can hang out with Jimmy again," Page told his long-time girlfriend that night. "He has no moral compass." 

'It just kept snowballing'

Jimmy testified that he found his father's body slumped across the plate of cocaine, which was only one of the things in the house he did not want police to find.

Addled by alcohol and drugs, Jimmy said, he panicked.

"It was one bad decision, and another bad decision, and a stupid decision, and a horrible decision," he said in court, according to the Palm Beach Post. "It just kept snowballing."

James Scandirito II testifies during his trial in West Palm Beach on March 19, 2019.  Scandirito  was acquitted of murdering his father, but convicted of dismembering his body.

The first flake was the trip to Home Depot, where he bought a hand cart and loaded it into Skip's Ford Escape. Police found the receipt on the floor of the SUV.

Using Skip's credit card across the next few days at a Walgreens and a Publix grocery store, he also bought Pine Sol, large trash bags, duct tape, paper towels, a mop — and a 12-pack of beer.

On April 1, 2018, he reported Skip missing. He spun a tale for police about a kayaking trip with a Latina woman his father had not introduced him to. He suggested that perhaps he should post missing-person fliers around the neighborhood.

The police were not fooled.

Skip's story

Skip made friends quickly and frequently. He was funny, a great storyteller, a still-fit tennis player and kayaker.

Devoted to his three cats in Boca Raton, he would leave social events early to check on them. He had a deft and gentle hand with plants, and the screened-in pool at his ranch-style house was surrounded by tropical flowers.

In Michigan in the late 1990s, he settled at least four lawsuits from women claiming he offered judicial favors in exchange for sex.

One of the women said he forced her to be his mistress for several months. Another said he offered to give her an apartment, car, cellphone, pager and money, and expunge her conviction for passing bad checks.

He resigned his district judgeship in Mount Clemens in January 2000, three days before a disciplinary hearing with the state Judicial Tenure Commission. The resignation meant the end of a job that paid $118,285 a year, but he preserved his $30,562 annual pension.

A clubhouse view of the  Ocean Breeze Golf Club in Boca Raton, Florida is seen before its foreclosure in 2016.  Pieces of James Scandirito's dismembered body were found inside plastic bags buried in a shallow grave at the closed golf club in 2018.

A month later, he and wife Terri moved to Florida, where he found work as an attorney with the Florida Department of Children & Families. He was fired in 2003 for not disclosing the issues in Michigan and ultimately lost his law license for signing a false affidavit.

Bloomfield Hills attorney Henry Baskin was on the commission when Skip managed to evade the hearing. Two decades later, he remembers specifics — the day of the week the judge arranged to meet the women, the name of the nearby restaurant, the alleged sex act he demanded.

"No question, the commission was going to bust this guy and take away his right to practice law," Baskin says. "He was done. He was through."


On April 3, 2018, police officers with a warrant searched Skip's house and garage. They detected drops of blood on the hand truck and other items. They saw that one area of the garage floor seemed cleaner than others.

In the wee hours of the following morning, they followed Jimmy to the abandoned Ocean Breeze Golf Club. They watched him leave the course toting a suitcase and toss it into a dumpster.

Inside the case: bloody clothing, maggots, a telltale smell.

The Ocean Breeze Golf Club in Boca Raton, Florida.

Buried on the golf course, in two 30-gallon bags, they found Skip. One bag held his upper torso without arms or the head. The other held the lower torso, down to the knees.

Jimmy explained later that he'd placed the rest of his dad in a valise and chucked it into a trash bin at a construction site. Those pieces never turned up.

On the witness stand, he said the process of dismembering his father with a hand saw involved numerous pauses.

"I'd smoke cigarettes and wish this nightmare wasn't happening," he said.

In his summation, prosecutor John Parnofiello suggested that "there's no reason to saw your father's head off and hide it if you didn't kill him."

But the jury found one — in part because no one ever found the head.

Murder? Not guilty

Among the items in Skip's health record was a triple bypass. The surgery, and a heavily second-guessed decision by prosecutors, might have spared Jimmy a conviction.

Without the entire body, medical experts said they couldn't specify a cause of death. Conceding the lesser crime, abusing a body, the defense pushed the notion of a fatal heart attack.

There was no proof Skip had been murdered, Jimmy's lawyers said, let alone been the victim of a premeditated crime.

The jury deliberated for 10 hours over two days.

Abuse of a body? Guilty.

Premeditated murder? Not guilty.

The rest of Skip's family? Apople

Who gets the money?

Come Friday's sentencing, Jimmy will have been behind bars for 14 months. His attorney filed a memorandum a few weeks ago saying that's long enough.

The motion asks that he be released into drug offender probation or in-patient treatment.

It says that his father's notoriety curtailed Jimmy's chances of establishing a legal career, and that his father's use of alcohol and drugs encouraged his own, and that his father was too much a pal and too little a parent.

It says he's a victim.

His aunt and niece appear to disagree.

A written statement after the trial from Ellen Scandirito referred to Jimmy as "the defendant," whom "we do not even consider a member of this family."

"Justice has not been served," it said.

James 'Skip' Scandirito's body was dismembered inside his home in Boca Raton.

In probate court, they are trying again.

Their lawyer did not return calls, but Troy estate attorney Danielle Mayoras reviewed the Florida slayer statute, which is designed to keep killers from profiting from their crimes.

"Long and short of it," she says, Jimmy "could still be disinherited. Essentially, though he wasn't convicted of murder, there could still be an adjudication that he is a killer."

To the plaintiffs' benefit, the standard of proof is lower — not beyond a reasonable doubt, but rather "a greater weight of evidence."

Poznanski, Jimmy's lawyer, says he is "confident we will prevail."

No hearings have been scheduled, he says, and he has no timeline for the process.

Evidence suggests that Scobel and Ellen Scandirito will be willing to endure, no matter how long it takes.

As for Jimmy, time might not be a concern.


Twitter: @nealrubin_dn