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Ex-con who witnessed brother’s Lodi murder sent to jail for threatening probation officers

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

ONLY ON CVP: A career criminal who as a child witnessed one of Bergen County’s most infamous murders was sent to the county jail for 364 days for threatening to kill one female probation officer and going after another with a baseball bat.

Michael Barbarino, 46, was four years old when his older brother, Joseph, raped and stabbed their 6-year-old brother, Vincent, at a deserted construction site a short walk from the tumultuous family’s Lodi home.

It was his cooperation that helped solve the cold case and convict his brother, who already was serving 50 years in prison for raping an 11-year-old female relative.

Michael Barbarino
(STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

Michael Barbarino has a nearly 20-year record of assaults, theft, drug and weapons offenses himself.

His lawyer said Friday that he suffers from “serious mental and physical problems, as well as substance abuse problems,” that have never been effectively addressed.

“Please consider my client’s treatment while we’re reviewing this case,” attorney Gail Hargrove asked Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi, trying to keep Barbarino a free man.

The judge, however, called him “a danger and a threat to the probation department.”

By recommending 364 days, probation officials were taking Barbarino’s issues into account and were “being rather generous,” she said.

DeAvila-Silebi also rejected Hargrove’s request to put him in the Bergen County Jail’s successful drug rehab program.

“We’ll take it one step at a time,” she said.

Amanda Marcino, a Bergen County probation officer, called Barbarino “deceitful,” “manipulative” and “not compliant.”

“He has told countless lies,” she said. “Countless.”

Barbarino, who now lives in Selins Grove, Pennsylvania, is serving probation instead of being prosecuted on five separate indictments for offenses ranging from theft to drugs.

His case was transferred to Pennsylvania to accommodate him, but they sent it back, Marcino said, citing “a failure to appear for required appointments, giving a dirty drug test, and lying more times than I can count.”

It culminated in him threatening his probation officer with a baseball bat when she made a last-ditch home visit to try to keep him in the program there, Marcino said.

After the case was returned to her in Bergen County, Barbarino told an investigator from the prosecutor’s office: “If you don’t get me off probation I’m going to find [Marcino] and I’m going to kill her,” she added.

Hargrove told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that she considers Marcino “strict” but also “the kind of probation officer who helps change people’s lives.”

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Dyanne Lluch, Bergen County Probation Officer Amanda Marcino, defense attorney Gail Hargrove, Barbarino
(STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

* * * * * *

During his brother’s murder trial, Michael Barbarino testified that he tried to stop “Joe Joe” as he brought their little brother to the vacant construction site and began raping him. But he was overpowered, he said.

After that, his older brother removed Vincent’s clothing, stuffed it under a nearby trailer and carried the lifeless body to a fuel truck, Barbarino said.

Their mother called police when she couldn’t find Vincent. Two hours later, Lodi police found his body in the truck’s cab and his bloodied clothes 40 feet away. He’d been stabbed three times across his stomach, they said.

Case notes show that police found bruise marks on Michael Barbarino’s neck, as well.

Barbarino first told authorities in 1988 that he saw the murder. A grand jury was impaneled, but conflicting stories from family members prevented a case from being brought.

The case ripped the family apart, with several members taking Joseph’s side. A sister insisted that Michael concocted the murder tale as revenge against his brother for molesting him. Several years ago, she tipped off detectives that Michael was carrying a loaded gun, for which he ended up spending six years in prison.

Joseph Barbarino

With both brothers locked up at the same time, investigators planted a recording device on Michael, hoping to get Joseph to confess the murder, Instead, Michael told him he was wired.

As part of Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli’s commitment to solving cold cases, investigators reviewed the file and interviewed family members and friends, including some people who either hadn‘t been spoken to before or originally gave only brief statements.

In 2006, Molinelli’s detectives arrested Joseph Barbarino on murder charges. During a search of the house, they reported finding letters in which Joseph Barbarino described raping the girl, for which he was later convicted.

A judge then convicted Joseph — who later married Michael’s ex-wife — of Vincent’s murder three years ago. The trial was held in Family Court in Hackensack because of his age at the time of the killing.

Had his brother been locked up right away, Michael Barbarino once told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , he believes his life would have been different.

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