The arrest of former Pitt Panther Christina Nicassio for allegedly stabbing her father to death stunned greater Pittsburgh’s soccer community — especially those who coached and played alongside the Plum woman for years and perceived her to be a hard-working role model on the field.
“Everybody is reeling from this, for Christina and for her family,” said Sue-Moy Chin, who was head coach of University of Pittsburgh’s women’s soccer team while Nicassio was on the team from 2007-10. “Completely, completely out of character. We keep thinking, ‘This is not her.’ ”
Nicassio, 27, is being held in the Allegheny County Jail on a homicide charge for the murder of her father, UPMC internist and primary care physician Anthony Nicassio, 69, who died of stab wounds to his chest inside his Capri Court home at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office said.
Hours earlier, Christina Nicassio grabbed a knife from the kitchen, and when her father tried to take it from her, she stabbed him twice because she “felt the world was ending,” a criminal complaint said.
Her parents — worried she needed medical intervention after breaking up with her fiancé and beginning to speak nonsensically — were trying to restrain their daughter and get her into a vehicle to check into Forbes Hospital for treatment, the complaint continued.
“They were trying to take me to the hospital to figure out what’s wrong with me,” she told police. “I didn’t want to go.”
When officers pressed why the Plum High School graduate believed her dad “had to die,” she initially replied, “I don’t know,” then later referenced Hollywood and the movie, “The Mummy Returns.”
“In a movie, someone who can’t love someone else, they stab their father,” she told police.
Barely a week ago, Nicassio was coaching 16-year-old girls in the Allegheny Force Football Club.
Her name has been removed from the list of coaching staff on the soccer club’s website.
At practice Monday night, AFFC officials planned to discuss the situation with Nicassio’s youth players and offer them support and counseling.
Nicassio’s former Pitt teammates told the Tribune-Review they spent the weekend exchanging text messages about their disbelief of what had happened. After reading news headlines, they asked each other, “Is it the Christina that we know? Are we sure?”
Prior to Saturday’s arrest, Christina Nicassio had no Pennsylvania criminal history. Her only infractions were for minor traffic offenses.
There are no records of previous 911 calls made from the Capri Court home, Plum police Lt. Lanny Conley said.
In college, Christina Nicassio studied communications, made the honor roll and was a four-time student-athlete scholar, Pitt’s records show. She exhibited a jovial, bubbly personality and rarely seemed to stress out about schoolwork or other issues, former teammates and coaches said.
“She cared about the game, and she was really fun to have around on the team,” Chin said. “She didn’t cause any problems, worked hard and was very bright.”
Chin said she further observed that Christina Nicassio seemed to be close with her family.
“They were always there supporting her at games,” Chin recalled.
Chin saw her interacting happily with her father and two older brothers, Anthony and Mark, when they came to watch her play, and noted that her mother, Sandra Nicassio, attended nearly every home and away game.
In recent years, Christina Nicassio worked alongside Sandra Nicassio as part of a mother-daughter real estate team at Northwood Realty Services’ Murrysville office.
She’d frequently post to Instagram and Facebook photos of her Italian family’s pasta dinners, her friends said.
Sandra Nicassio and other family members declined a request for comment Monday through a family spokesman.
Allegheny County homicide detectives would not say whether Christina Nicassio had any prior treatment for mental health issues.
Generally speaking, violence spurred by mental health issues is “never just a person snapping,” said Dr. Alice Applegate, a forensic psychology expert based in Allison Park.
“Probably, you’re looking at months and months and months of a kind of deterioration of a person’s functioning,” said Applegate, who has not reviewed the specifics of Christina Nicassio’s case.
“In every case that I’ve looked at, what’s going on in the inside is very different from what it looks like on the outside,” Applegate added. “When you do due diligence, what you’re going to find is early indicators, prior losses in the person’s life.”
“Some kind of psychiatric episode. She’s armed with a knife,” a 911 dispatcher told officers headed to the scene shortly after 3 a.m., according to Plum police’s archived audio recording.
“The daughter is trying to stab the mother and the father,” the dispatcher can be heard saying.
At about 3:15 a.m., as the first officer to arrive waited for backup, Sandra Nicassio told police by phone that her husband had been stabbed and the knife was still stuck in his chest, the dispatcher reported: “The male has been stabbed in the chest and knife is still in him. … need medics, step it up!”
At 3:18 a.m., officers took Christina Nicassio into custody. She was denied bail.
Court records did not list an attorney for Nicassio as of Monday.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 17 in Pittsburgh Municipal Court.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or on Twitter @NewsNatasha. Staff writer Mike Divittorio contributed.