Former thoroughbred owner shot son & granddaughter of renowned jockey & racing judge
PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida—Why did Ronald John Delserro, 82, on July 6, 2020 fatally shoot two of his longtime Port St. Lucie neighbors, 11-year-old Harper Hansman and her father Guy Alexander Hansman, 55?
Was Delserro’s grievance only because the Hansman family brought his dog Roxy to legal justice because of repeated dangerous behavior?
Notoriously high-risk breed
Roxy in various paperwork was alternately described as a bull mastiff and an Italian mastiff, a term also used to describe cane corsos and Neopolitan mastiffs.
All three mastiff variants are notoriously dangerous, in a bracket with pit bulls and Rottweilers, yet the bad behavior could not have occurred––as a judge ruled––if Delserro and his wife Sandra had kept Roxy adequately fenced and at home.
That the shooting rampage originated solely out of conflict over Roxy is the prevailing theory among law enforcement, news media, and family of the victims. And it is the simplest, most obvious explanation for the shootings, to the extent that any explanation will ever make sense.
But was there an older grudge?
Circumstantial evidence suggests, however, that former thoroughbred owner Delserro may have nursed smoldering resentment of the Hansman family, even before Roxy became an issue.
Though Harper and Guy Hansman had nothing directly to do with thoroughbred racing, the Hansman family track record eclipsed Delserro’s, several times over.
Further, the relatively brief history of Delserro Thoroughbred Racing Stables was tinged by repeated scandal. Delserro horses charged home first at least 50 times in 258 starts, but no one appears to remember Delserro as a great name in racing history.
Larry Hansman, by contrast, the 5’3″, 110-pound grandfather of Harper Hansman and father of Guy Hansman, enjoyed a 24-year career as a top-rated jockey, followed by a post-retirement career as a racing judge.
Whether Larry Hansman ever ruled against Delserro, or whether Delserro ever so much as ran a horse in a race at which Hansman officiated, ANIMALS 24-7 has been unable to discover. But Hansman throughout his career earned professional respect that Delserro Thoroughbred Racing Stables seems never to have had.
Issues involving Roxy first surfaced in a police report on March 4, 2020. Monique Hansman, 53, wife of Guy Hansman, mother of Harper, told St. Lucie animal control officers that she was walking Rucca, her son’s female Labradoodle, at about 6:45 a.m., when Roxy, who was off leash, charged Rucca.
Rucca was leashed. Monique Hansman tried to pull Roxy off Rucca. Monique Hansman testified that Roxy bit her arm and ear, inflicting a gash to her head, for which she was treated at St. Lucie Medical Center. Harper Hansman witnessed the incident.
Ronald Delserro was advised at the time that Roxy would have to be home quarantined for ten days, until March 14, 2020.
On March 5, however, the very next day, Monique Hansman videotaped Roxy running at large. Sandra Delserro, 78, wife of Ronald John Delserro, denied that Roxy had been loose, but because of the video evidence, the animal control report states, “A decision was made by animal control to remove Roxy for the remainder of the quarantine period to ensure there would be no additional violation.”
Roxy was returned to the Ronald and Sandra Delserro on March 17, 2020, two days after they advised St. Lucie animal control that they intended to contest a “dangerous dog” designation.
More alleged violations
“On March 27 and March 30,” summarized Will Greenlee for Treasure Coast Newspapers, “animal control officials were told of additional allegations regarding Roxy. On the latter day, the Delserros ‘denied the violations, but video proved otherwise. Therefore they were issued a dangerous dog citation.”
Both Monique and Harper Hansman testified at a June 24, 2020 “dangerous dog” hearing. A special magistrate found Roxy was a “dangerous dog.” This meant that Roxy could no longer be outside the Delserro fenced property without being leashed and muzzled.
Served documents on July 1, 2020, to sign in acknowledgement of the “dangerous dog” finding, Greenlee wrote, “Sandra Delserro signed. Her husband refused.”
On Monday, July 6, 2020, “A dangerous animal citation obtained by CBS12 News shows the owner of the dog was fined $500 by City of Port St. Lucie Animal Control for ‘failure to safely confine in a fence,’” CBS12 reporter Al Pefley told viewers.
“They all came home from court and then the suspect armed himself and went to the victims’ house,” said St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara.
Harper Hansman called 911
Picked up fellow CBS12 reporter Sabrina Lolo, “Ronald Delserro went to his neighbors’ house with two handguns and opened fire, according to police. Six people were inside at the time when Delserro burst in and started shooting. Four people managed to make it out of the home, Harper Hansman and her father were shot and killed.”
Harper Hansman, before she was shot, called 911.
“If you heard this call come over the radio, it would make the hair on your neck stand,” Sheriff Mascara told media. “A little girl calls in saying ‘There’s someone shooting in our house. I think my parents are dead. I think my family is dead.”
Continued Lolo, “Port St. Lucie police officers and a St. Lucie County deputy entered the home and got into a shootout with Delserro. A police officer ended up getting shot in the arm and the chest. However, the bullet was stopped by a bulletproof vest; the officer was treated at the hospital and later released. The St. Lucie County deputy managed to get Harper out of the home, but she later died at the hospital.
“Have you guys seen my husband?”
“When the Port St. Lucie SWAT team arrived, they entered the home and found Delserro dead in a second-story bedroom. Unclear is whether he was killed by authorities or if he took his own life. Guy Hansman’s body was found in the garage.”
Amid the shootout, Sandra Delserro reportedly asked witness Louis Herrmann, who was doing remodeling work at Southport Middle School, across the street, “Have you guys seen my husband? I can’t find him. I hope he didn’t do something bad.”
Herrmann told Greenlee that he had already been aware of the dispute involving Roxy, “noting the neighbors had been having verbal altercations,” Greenlee wrote.
“It’s like a couple of hours of them yelling at each other, and then it’s quiet,” Herrmann told Greenlee. “Just cussing at each other, going back and forth.”
“Hardworking family man”
Added Greenlee, “Guy Hansman was a hardworking family man, a 27-year manager at Winn-Dixie who married his childhood sweetheart. Harper Hansman was ‘his little princess.’
“That’s how Guy Hansman’s sister-in-law, Julie Hansman, described him and Harper. She said he and Monique had a total of four children.
“They were together since they were about 15 years old,” Julie Hansman told Greenlee.
Sandra Delserro called animal control on July 7, 2020, saying she wanted to surrender Roxy “as she was leaving town,” Greenlee followed up.
“She consented for Roxy to be euthanized, which occurred at a veterinary clinic Wednesday. Roxy’s body was taken to a cremation facility,” Greenlee finished.
Delserro Thoroughbred Racing Stables
The possible story-behind-the-story emerged only after several days of digging. Decades earlier, Ronald and Sandra Delserro made their money, apparently quite a lot of money, in buying, renovating, and reselling houses in and around Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
But Ronald Delserro apparently wanted to make a name for himself as a horse owner.
Son Ronald Jay Delserro in May 1975 won a third place ribbon at the second annual Royal Crest Farm horse show in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
Ronald Jay Delserro eventually took over the family construction business, making his name directing Rondel Development and Rondel New Homes, still in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.
The senior Ronald J. Delserro, Ronald John, meanwhile appears to have gone racing.
The Delserro track record
Delserro Thoroughbred Racing Stables, Inc., ran at least four horses between 1990 and 1997.
Accession, the first on the track, won $273,603 between 1990 and 1996, posting 17 firsts, nine seconds, and 15 thirds in 72 career starts.
Freebie One, racing from 1991 to 1997, won $148,486, with 14 firsts, 15 seconds, and 17 thirds in 113 starts.
Patty the Chow made 28 starts in 1994-1996, winning $113,235, with 12 firsts, two seconds, and three thirds.
My Girl Sabona won $63,680, with seven firsts, six seconds, and two thirds in 45 starts.
Available records indicate that all four horses were trained chiefly by David Monaci.
“Look at me, judge”
“Monaci made a name for himself at the Bensalem [Pennsylvania] oval, but not for all the right reasons,” recalled Horse Racing Nation after Monaci’s death in 2011, at age 53.
Posted one Frankie D. to the horse racing web site Thoroughgraph, “David Monaci, RIP, was a very large man and not very GQ. He was an owner who thought he could cheat better than his trainer and got a trainer’s license.
“When brought before a judge in Florida on charges of attempting to pay for sex, Monaci threw himself on the mercy of the court: ‘Look at me judge. How else is a man that looks like me supposed to have sex?’”
Monaci drew a 45-day suspension from the New York Racing Association in 1990, around the time his name first surfaced in connection with Delserro Thoroughbred Racing.
“Elephant juice” & lost urine sample
Monaci ran into his most serious trouble, however, on March 18, 1996, when the Delserro horse Accession finished first in the eighth race at Philadelphia Park, but tested positive for doping with a drug called Etorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid also known as elephant juice.
Monaci appealed. A horse urine sample sent on April Fool’s Day to the Equine Medication Surveillance Laboratory at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge disappeared in transit. But the sample had been divided.
The remainder of the sample was sent by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission to the Analytical Toxicology Laboratory at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University. The OSU testing confirmed the use of Etorphine.
According to court records, “Anton Leppler, administrator of enforcement for the Pennsylvania Racing Commission, testified that the Commission’s concern that a track employee may have stolen the [missing portion of the] split sample was piqued because another track employee mentioned a bribery attempt to a supervisor.”
Specifically, “Farm worker Dawn Alstatt reported to the Commission on April 1, 1996, that on March 31, 1996, trainer Frank Geraci approached her stating that his friend was in trouble and offering her $2,000 to switch a urine sample; she responded that she did not know if she would and walked away.
“On the same day, ” the court transcript says, “stable employee Juan Velez, boyfriend to Alstatt, was stopped by Geraci, who stated that his friend was in a lot of trouble and asked if his girlfriend would switch the dates of a urine sample to which Velez responded that he did not know. He further indicated that later that day, Geraci stopped Velez again stating that ‘his friend Monaci’ was in trouble and asking whether Alstatt would help him; Velez said that Alstatt refused.”
Geraci voluntarily surrendered to Pennsylvania state police on related charges, pleading no contest on February 5, 1997.
Monaci drew a four-year suspension from horse racing, delayed by appeals until 1998, plus a fine of $1,000. Except for one start in 2008, his racing career was over. He spent the last dozen years of his life as a stockbroker.
There appears to be no record of Delserro Thoroughbred Racing, Inc. existing after Monaci received the four-year suspension.
Larry Hansman, born in Indianapolis, broke into bigtime professional horse racing at at age 18 at Beulah Park in Ohio in 1944, finding his opening during a World War II jockey shortage. Hansman raced in Detroit, New Orleans, and then Mexico City, before scoring his first win in 1945.
Twice suspended for reckless riding as an apprentice, Hansman was hospitalized for weeks with a badly broken leg after a hard fall from the filly Andrea Kay in September 1945, at the Aqueduct track in Queens, New York City.
Returning to the track, Hansman was charged again with reckless riding in December 1945 at Gulfstream Park in Florida, but witnesses testified this time that that the problem was the behavior of the horse Gallant Bull, known to be “sulky and undependable” according to trainer Bill Hicks.
Hansman does not appear to have drawn another penalty until June 1951, when he was suspended for 10 days at Delaware Park for allowing his horse Sea Fan––who finished first––to block another horse named Winship.
“All too soon you’re middle-aged”
Hansman and fellow jockey Doug Dodson meanwhile won reputations as honest riders in July 1946 when they testified that a third jockey, Robert Vedder, had tried to bribe them to fix a race at Arlington Park. Robert Vedder was banned from horse racing for life.
Hansman’s younger brother Bernard followed him into racing, for a while. The Hansman brothers met in competition for the first and perhaps the only time in November 1952 at Tropical Park in Miami. Their horses collided out of the gate. Larry Hansman fell; Bernard finished sixth.
Larry Hansman went on to compete twice in the Kentucky Derby, placing seventh on Dragon Killer in 1959 and ninth on Loyal Son in 1961.
In between, Hansman rode He’s A Pistol in “The World’s Richest Race,” with a $287,970 purse, at the Garden State Raceway in New Jersey.
Hansman never emerged as a racing superstar, but throughout his career often ran alongside Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Arcaro, Bill Hartack, Johnny Longden, and Willie Shoemaker, among others. He retired after one last race at Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby, in 1968.
“When you’re a jockey,” Hansman said, “the tendency is to hang on. It’s hard to bring yourself to give it up. You started out as a teenager and all too soon you’re middle-aged.”
“Be A Good Person” couple shot
Guy Hansman was still a toddler when his father last raced. Whether he and his daughter Harper were killed in part because Ronald John Delserro envied Larry Hansman’s stature in horse racing can only be conjecture.
From what is known, the murders of the Hansmans would appear to most parallel, among recent cases, the June 10, 2020 killing of Isabella Thallas, 21, and wounding of her fiancé Darian Simon, 26, in the Five Points district of Denver.
Simon owns the Denver-based Be A Good Person clothing company.
Michael R. Close, 36, is charged with 20 related crimes, including “two counts of murder in the first degree [why two counts is unclear], two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of assault, six counts of using ‘a prohibited large-capacity magazine during the commission of a crime,’ three counts of possessing an illegal high-capacity magazine, one count of disorderly conduct, and four counts of committing a ‘crime of violence,’ which enhances sentencing if he is convicted,” Denver district attorney Beth McCann told media.
Murdered over dog pooping?
“According to an affidavit,” reported David Sachs for The Denverite, “Close killed Thallas and injured Simon after Simon told his dog to poop. Close asked Simon if he was ‘going to train the dog or just yell at it,’ the affidavit states. The victim tried to ignore Close, but then saw the gun pointed at him and his girlfriend before hearing shots fired.
“Thallas died at the scene. Simon was wounded in his leg and buttocks.”
“Close,” Sachs continued, “fled the murder scene in a black Mercedes Benz with Colorado plates and headed toward the mountains on US-285. Denver police alerted their regional counterparts, and authorities arrested him near Pine Junction after a traffic stop.
“The arresting deputy found an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun on the car’s floor in front of the passenger seat, as well as a gun belt and gun magazines.”
“Fighting for the right of society to govern itself”
Both the Hansman murders and the Thallas murder recall the oft-expressed advice of National Animal Control Association founding president Mike Burgwin, 1929-2016, to fellow animal control officers.
(See “Animal control: what’s it all about?” asked Mike Burgwin.)
“We’ve all heard, ‘They just don’t care,’” Burgwin would start. “I submit they do care,” Burgwin emphasized. “They just care about other things than society in general cares about.
“What do they care about? They are obsessed with having complete freedom. Therefore, the rule of the majority is only okay if they happen to agree with it,” Burgwin assessed.
“Or, more accurately, only if the majority happens to agree with them. ‘I’ll let my dog run at large if I want. After all, I didn’t write any law to the contrary. And no one else can tell me what to do.’ In other words,” Burgwin stressed, “they do not believe in democracy.
“See what you’re fighting? The causes can run very deep. It may seem to be just a leash law or barking dog violation, but it may very well be rooted much deeper. You are really fighting for the right of society to govern itself. Heavy stuff when you are out trying to capture a loose dog.
“But think about it,” Burgwin advised. “You’ll find it easier to shed verbal abuse when you understand the importance of your profession.”
Jamaka Petzak says
“…“Or, more accurately, only if the majority happens to agree with them. ‘I’ll let my dog run at large if I want. After all, I didn’t write any law to the contrary. And no one else can tell me what to do.’ In other words,” Burgwin stressed, “they do not believe in democracy.”
That sums it up pretty succinctly. The same mindset is at work in the “bully advocates” as is at work with those who refuse to social distance, mask, and stay home. “My way or the highway!” They are anti-social in the extreme. And innocent lives are lost, again and again, because of their arrogant, confrontational, BULLYing attitudes.
And society continues to allow it to happen.