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‘Touch DNA’ test leads to arrest in murder of East Rutherford woman

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

EXCLUSIVE: Highly sensitive state-of-the-art DNA testing by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office led investigators to the man arrested last night in the bludgeoning and burning of a 70-year-old East Rutherford woman, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

“Touch DNA” testing, as it’s known, is used to detect and recover miniscule amounts of DNA left from skins cells on clothing that has been grabbed, from under fingernails, on doorknobs or windowsills, or from jewelry, weapons or envelopes, among many other sources.

Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said he couldn’t comment on evidence in the Sept. 14 murder of Barbara Verneri, in which the killer poured accelerant on her and the area around her and lit it on fire.

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

However, the prosecutor did credit the quick response of East Rutherford police and firefighters, whose work preserved a great deal of evidence — and allowed a forensic examination of her body.

Molinelli announced last night’s arrest of the accused killer — 37-year-old Daniel T. Rochat of Wood-Ridge — at a news conference this morning after speaking with members of Vernieri’s family.

As CLIFFVIEW PILO T exclusively reported earlier today, Rochat is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson, disturbing human remains, resisting arrest, hindering apprehension and false swearing.

He is also charged with two additional counts of attempted murder because two people were in Vernieri’s upstairs apartment at the time.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Rochat had just left his parents’ house in Waldwick and was driving on Route 17 in Allendale last night when police pulled him over, Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

He fought with the officers but eventually was subdued, the prosecutor said this afternoon.

Rochat is being held on $3 million bail in the Bergen County Jail.

Asked whether he could be a subject in two similar murders, both in 2010, Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT :

“We still haven’t ruled him out, but we can’t confirm it, either…. We still have a long way to go.”

The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) Department of Forensic Biology was the first to establish the high-sensitivity “touch DNA” testing and has been using it the past six years.

Although Molinelli refused to discuss the particulars of the case, he did thank the OCME for “its valuable expertise.”

Former fellow real estate agent from Wood-Ridge charged with killing, burning East Rutherford woman, 70
Thursday, 04 October 2012 09:19 Jerry DeMarco

  • YOU READ IT HERE FIRST (11 a.m.) : Authorities have charged a Wood-Ridge man with bludgeoning a 70-year-old fellow real estate agent in her East Rutherford home before torching her and her house, CLIFFVIEW PILO T has learned. Bail is $3 million. READ MORE….

Former fellow real estate agent charged in murder, burning of East Rutherford woman, 70
Thursday, 04 October 2012 10:27 Jerry DeMarco

Daniel T. Rochat

  • UPDATE: Authorities have charged a Wood-Ridge man with bludgeoning a 70-year-old East Rutherford woman who worked at his father’s real estate agency before torching her and her house, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli confirmed this morning. READ MORE….

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