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Trial awaits former real estate agent charged with killing, burning East Rutherford woman, 70

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

ONLY ON CVP: A Wood-Ridge man charged in the bludgeoning and burning of a 70-year-old East Rutherford realtor came a step closer to trial this morning.

Daniel Rochat, 38, likely was scheduled to be tried the beginning of August in Hackensack in the grisly death of Barbara Vernieri on Sept. 14, 2012.

Rochat, a Waldwick native, is accused of breaking into Vernieri’s Sheppard Terrace home, bludgeoning her and then setting fire to the body — in what prosecutors said was an attempt to avoid detection.

In addition to murder, a host of charges include endangering the upstairs tenant who called in the fire, as well as desecration of human remains, burglary and hindering prosecution.

Barbara Vernieri

The final count involves accusations that Rochat removed Vernieri’s cell phone and blood, DNA and other forensic evidence from the crime scene; gave false information to Wood-Ridge police; lied to them under oath, and threatened Wood-Ridge Sgt. Brian Griefer and Detective James McMorrow of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office while resisting arrest.

Rochat remained held on $3 million bail today in the Bergen County Jail.

Vernieri, 70, was a business associate of Rochat’s father, Gene, who was a principal at Kurgan-Bergen Realtors Agency. She had worked for the older Rochat for decades.

Defense attorney Richard Potter told Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi today that his trial preparation is proceeding well and that he only needs a few items of evidence from prosecutors.

He said, however, that the amount of evidence is “voluminous” and will require time to work through.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer said she will provide a videotaped statement Rochat made to investigators, as Potter requested.

DeAvila-Silebi set an Aug. 4 trial date.

The murder of Vernieri at her Sheppard Terrace home bore similarities to two other unsolved Bergen County murders, both in 2010, in which elderly victims were doused with an accelerant and set ablaze.

Dolores Alliotts, 69, was stabbed to death and her Palisades Park home set on fire in April 2010. Five months later, 74-year-old Joan Davis of Teaneck suffered the same fate.

In each of those cases, as with Vernieri’s murder, prosecutors said the fires were set in an attempt to cover up the crimes.

The advantage in the Vernieri case was that East Rutherford police and firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, allowing a forensic examination of her body that authorities didn’t have in the two previous cases.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer,
defense attorney Richard Potter, Daniel Rochat today in court

STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

BACKGROUND IN THE CASE:

Former real estate agent arraigned in murder, burning of East Rutherford woman, 70

EXCLUSIVE: With his parents on one side of the courtroom and loved ones of the victim on the other, a former real estate agent today moved closer to being tried on charges of bludgeoning a 70-year-old East Rutherford woman before torching her and her house. READ MORE….

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Former real estate agent indicted in murder, burning

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: An out-of-work real estate agent who prosecutors say bludgeoned a 70-year-old East Rutherford woman before torching her and her house was indicted today by a Bergen County grand jury. READ MORE….

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Accused killer of East Rutherford woman brought to court

YOU SAW IT HERE FIRST: The man charged with murdering a 70-year-old East Rutherford woman was brought into court this morning in Hackensack, where he entered a not guilty plea after being read the list of charges against him. READ MORE….

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

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. READ MORE….

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Fellow real estate agent charged in murder, burning of East Rutherford woman, 70

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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