Joe Caronna appears in court - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Joe Caronna appears in court

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

BARTLETT, TN (WMC-TV) - Wearing handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit, Joe Caronna stepped into court Thursday morning to answer charges of first degree murder against him in the death of his wife, Tina.

Dozens showed up for Caronna's arraignment, including family friends Laurie Minor and Patricia Turner.

"It was hard to see him," Minor said.

Minor and Turner were friends with the Caronnas, part of a group unable and unwilling to forget about Tina.

"She was always just the life of the party," Minor said.

Also attending the hearing were  Matt and Cathy Struna.

"I wanted to make sure he saw us there, and we were not there to support him," Matt Struna said.

Struna might be the last person to talk with Tina Caronna before her murder.  According to the affidavit of complaint, he spoke with her by phone at 10:16amthe day she disappeared.

"We really thought he was innocent until a couple weeks ago," Cathy Struna said.

The Struna's originally stood behind Joe Caronna, offering support, taking him to church every week, and setting up Joe with personal grief counseling.

"We were doing what we thought was a Christian thing, supporting who we thought was a grieving husband," Matt Struna said.

On October 27, 2008, Minor was found in her Chevy Avalanche. Her body was covered with two beach towels, and wedged between the backseat and the backs of the front seats.

According to the autopsy report, she had bruises on her arms and legs, and a fingernail and a toenail were broken.

The medical examiner's report says a piece of duct tape was attached to her blouse and the right side of her face, while another piece was wrapped loosely once around the right wrist.

Investigators say her husband killed her and ditched her car with the body inside.  Four months later, an arrest warrant was filed. After two weeks on the run, police caught Joe Caronna hiding in a Jackson hotel.

"He fooled all of us," Minor said. "I mean we were all his friends."

During his arraignment, Caronna asked the judge to appoint a defense attorney. He told prosecutors he was employed selling insurance. Caronna told the judge he worked as late as last week, and made $70,000 last year.

Still, the judge appointed a public defender, "I don't think he's going to be working at that job for awhile."

Meanwhile, Minor and Turner are dumbfounded by the case.

"We're going to wake up in the morning and it's a bad dream," Turner said.

For now, Caronna will stay in the Bartlett City Jail. He'll move to 201 Poplar if and when the case is bound over to a grand jury.

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