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Prosecutor: Killer of East Rutherford woman, 70, doused her with accelerant before lighting fire

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Barbara Vernieri of East Rutherford fought hard against her attacker, who hit her several times in the head and upper extremities, killing her, before pouring an accelerant on the 70-year-old victim and setting her on fire, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said today. The killer remained at large late this afternoon.

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

It’s “not unique” for someone to seek to cover up a killing by trying to destroy the evidence — namely: the victim.

Still, the murder of Vernieri before noon Friday at her Sheppard Terrace home does bear that similarity to two other unsolved Bergen County murders, both in 2010, in which elderly victims were doused with an accelerant and set ablaze, the prosecutor said at an impromptu news conference in Hackensack this afternoon.

The advantage this case has is the quick response of East Rutherford police and firefighters, who quickly extinguished the blaze, Molinelli told reporters outside the county courthouse.

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

He would not say whether authorities have any suspicious that she may have been targeted for any specific reason.

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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