HERNANDO BEACH – A woman who shot her ex-boyfriend and then held two children hostage walked out of the Hernando County Jail Thursday with a reduced charge and time served.
On June 24, 2023, Hernando County Sheriff's Deputies rushed to a residence on Flounder Ave after reports of a shooting. Upon arrival, they made contact with the victim, John Cantwell, at a nearby residence who had suffered a gunshot wound to his abdomen. Deputies soon learned that Cantwell had been shot by his girlfriend, 34-year-old Tabatha Dawn Mincieli, and that she was holding two children hostage in the residence.
After a 3 ½ hour standoff with deputies Mincieli surrendered and she was taken into custody without further incident, according to officials.
Sources say Cantwell's injuries were so severe that it took months to make a full recovery.
Just one month before the shooting, on May 12th, Cantwell was the victim of another violent attack by Mincieli, where she slammed his hand in a door and threatened to shoot him. According to the arrest affidavit, Cantwell was trying to prevent her from driving because she was intoxicated. The incident occurred in front of the same children who were held hostage during the incident in June. Mincieli was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and released on a $50 bond.
Mincieli was held without bond after her arrest in June and remained in jail until her release last Thursday.
Ryan Lotito, who is the father of Mincieli's 6-year-old daughter, appealed to Judge Stephen Toner, not to release Mincieli due to her extremely violent past. Lotito and Cantwell both have children in common with Mincieli and they are the children who were present during both violent incidents.
In the letter to Judge Toner Lotito writes, "During the past six months she [Mincieli] has been calling (their daughter) numerous times per day, telling lies and continues to her mentally and emotionally by saying 'mommy is getting out soon and we will be back living together.'" Lotito explains that Mincieli is using parental alienation to destroy the relationship between him and their daughter and even tries to convince her that Cantwell is her biological father.
Lotito tells Judge Toner that Mincieli threatened to shoot him with a shotgun and proceeded to slash four tires on his car. He says Mincieli has beaten him numerous times in front of their daughter while they were together. Lotito says Mincieli has prior DUIs and often drives drunk with their daughter in the car.
Lotito closes by telling Judge Toner, "I am very afraid of Tabatha and believe she is capable of carrying out an even worse tragedy."
Judges are not allowed to consider ex parte communication, so in a notice filed by Judge Toner, he writes, "The court will take no action on said ex parte correspondence. Appropriate pleadings should be filed with the clerk of court."
During a hearing on February 8th, Judge Toner accepted the State's offer of Culpable Negligence, which carries up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, in lieu of the original charge of Aggravated Battery with a Firearm.
Jackie DeSario, Cantwell's sister, contacted R News and provided the following statement:
I am outraged by the fact that the Hernando County DA gave Tabitha Mincieli a plea deal for shooting her boyfriend. She should have gone to jail for attempted murder. She almost killed my brother. And she held her kids hostage for four hours forcing swat to have to break down the door. She only received time served which was 7 months. Her plea deal was for negligence with a firearm. This was attempted murder. This is absolutely sickening. And after multiple cases of battery on my brother she goes free and he deals with health issues and trauma. His children were even taken from him. And have not been returned. I want to speak out about this injustice!
In all, Mincieli spent 230 days behind bars and resolved both the shooting charge and the prior battery charge.