The ex-wife of a man on trial in what prosecutors call a decade-spanning series of revenge shootings testified Wednesday that she was subjected to threats and reprisals, including rape, after her husband learned of her extramarital affair.
Then an Air Force major, Beverly Nozolino faced the loss of her career and her military retirement pay and the prospect of a stint
in prison should her affair with a civilian co-worker at the Air Force Academy be made known to her superiors.
That was the cudgel Bruce J. Nozolino, 52, held over her head after learning of the relationship through a private detective, his ex-wife told jurors after taking the stand as the first witness in what is expected to be an eight-week trial in 4th Judicial District Court.
In a quavering voice, Beverly Nozolino said her enraged husband, who had by then taken to living in the couple’s basement, crept up to her bedroom and demanded that she perform oral sex or be reported to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
“I told him I didn’t want to do that and I considered it rape,” she said.
Nozolino repeated his threats to expose the affair in an even, deliberate voice, and she capitulated, she told the jury.
“It was demeaning. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I felt bad that I was letting it happen and I couldn’t stop it.”
When it was over, he left the bedroom without a word, she said.
“He seemed more powerful than he had before,” said Beverly Nozolino, who now lives in Virginia, where she fled with the couple’s two children in the late 1990s amid the resulting divorce she described as “volatile” and “painful.”
Sexual assault is not among the charges leveled against Nozolino, but a judge permitted a jury to hear the testimony for the limited purpose of considering a pattern of conduct surrounding the crimes. Prosecutors say the break up – and Nozolino’s loss of control – led to four revenge shootings, including the November 2008 murder of Richard Schreiner, Beverly Nozolino’s former lover.
Aside from the sexual assault, Beverly Nozolino said her husband wrote up a “document” laying out conditions for their marriage
To keep her husband from reporting the affair, she was to comply with a “four-phase plan” that called for her to agree to a secret divorce that would be kept from their children; pay all the couple’s bills; handle errands involving the children; support her husband in a lawsuit against her lover; and sign over a portion of her retirement pay.
The deal would have required her to cohabitate with Nozolino for five more years, until she was eligible to begin drawing retirement, she said.
“Somewhere in one of the phases … I could date, but I would have to divulge to him who I was dating.”
Behind all the demands was a constant drumbeat of threats, she said: “I don’t know if I could count them. Many times. All the time. At least once a day.”
Beverly Nozolino said she eventually told her husband the prospect of staying with him in a loveless marriage was “ridiculous” and she decided to get a lawyer.
Beverly Nozolino said she was “ashamed” and “embarrassed” by her affair, which began in 1999, after Nozolino had already moved to the basement and installed a locking door without giving her explanation.
During the months leading up to her relationship with Schreiner, she said Nozolino had become increasingly controlling about the couple’s finances, though she brought home much of the couple’s salary.
Among the exhibits shown to jurors was an email Nozolino sent his wife announcing that he would be sending his wife a series of “Why” questions that she must answer.
The first asked why Beverly Nozolino would leave her husband “open and vulnerable” to AIDs by the affair. The note said her answer was compulsory and would become part of “long-term permanent records” that he said he might elect to share with the couple’s daughters later in life.
The emails were frequently signed “Brucie,” she said.
“I didn’t call him Brucie — I called him Bruce. Nobody called him Brucie.”
“But he referred to himself that way.”
The woman is expected to retake the stand when testimony resumes at 1:30 p.m.