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Link to 2010 arson killings not entirely ruled out in murder of East Rutherford woman, 70

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: An East Rutherford woman’s killer torched her house after hitting her with something — and not stabbing her, as incorrectly reported elsewhere, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said this morning. Investigators “have not ruled out the possibility” of a link to similar killings of two elderly women in 2010, he added.

Bergen Prosecutor John L. Molinelli (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo: Mary K. Miraglia) INSET: Barbara Vernieri

Molinelli officially confirmed a report in yesterday’s CLIFFVIEW PILOT that Barbara R. Vernieri’s killer bashed her in the head with something before setting her home on fire.

“The cause of death has been determined to be blunt force trauma to the head and upper extremities, with no apparent stab wounds or lacerations that would have been caused by a knife,” the prosecutor said this morning.

“It is unclear if an object was used to inflict the wounds,” he said. “It appears that she suffered the fatal wounds prior to the fire.

“Although the inhalation of carbon monoxide may have been a contributing cause, it was the blunt force damage to her head which was the primary cause of her death,” Molinelli said the county Medical Examiner’s Office concluded after an autopsy yesterday.

“It is not possible, at this time, to connect Ms. Vernieri’s death to the two prior incidents in 2010. While the utilization of fire is common to all three, there appears nothing remarkable to this incident which would leave law enforcement to assume that one or both of the prior incidents were committed by Ms. Vernieri’s assailant,” the prosecutor said.

“For the same reason,” he added, “we have not ruled out the possibility of such a connection.”

From the start, Molinelli insisted it was premature to suggest that Vernieri’s murder was connected in any way to two unsolved homicides two years ago, one in Palisades Park and the other in Teaneck.

What they do share in common is a killing followed by an arson, presumably set by the murderer to destroy evidence — not a rarity.

What they don’t share, as CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported exclusively yesterday, is the cause of death.

Members of the East Rutherford Fire and Police Departments found Vernieri’s body after rushing to the fire on the first floor of her two-family house at 18 Sheppard Terrace around 12:30 Friday afternoon.

She had been killed a short time earlier, Molinelli said last night.

A local newspaper published stories in which an unidentified person, said to be a borough official, said that it appeared Vernieri was stabbed.

That isn’t true, the prosecutor said.

Molinelli was also concerned that certain media organizations were using the incorrect information to draw direct connections to the April 2010 stabbing death in Palisades Park of 69-year-old Dolores Alliotts, whose house was torched, and the killing four months later in Teaneck of Joan Davis, 74, a political watchdog who’d been beaten and stabbed before a fire was set.

Both lived alone.

Vernieri’s husband died in 2009 in an apparent accident, drowning in a backyard pool.

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Barbara R. Vernieri’s killer bashed her in the head with something and didn’t stab her before setting her home on fire, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight, correcting what the county Medical Examiner has determined was an inaccurate report by other news media. READ MORE….

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