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Former real estate agent from Wood-Ridge charged with killing, burning East Rutherford woman, 70

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

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 PILOT has learned. Bail is $3 million.

  • 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….

Daniel Rochat, 37, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated arson, disturbing human remains, resisting arrest, hindering apprehension and false swearing.

Barbara Vernieri fought hard against her killer, who hit her several times before pouring an accelerant on the East Rutherford real estate agent and setting her on fire on Sept. 14, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said a little over two weeks ago.

Daniel T. Rochat

The prosecutor scheduled a news conference this morning to announce charges against the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Rochat, who police say resisted arrest when he was taken into custody yesterday.

  • UPDATE: Authorities have charged a Waldwick 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….

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 recent case was the quick response of East Rutherford police and firefighters, who quickly extinguished the blaze, Molinelli said last month.

It allowed a forensic examination of her body that authorities didn’t have in the two previous cases, he said.

That Vernieri’s house is on a cul-de-sac, along with the fact that no sign of forced entry was found leads investigators to suspect she either knew her killer or let the person in for some reason, the prosecutor said at the time.

Cul-de-sacs are not necessarily destinations of choice for random attackers.

Molinelli said a tenant upstairs at Vernieri’s home called in the fire but didn’t witness the killing. The unidentified person gave investigators a statement, the prosecutor said.

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