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Wife’s brutal murder brings life sentence for Dumont man

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

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A judge in Hackensack sentenced Peter Shanley to what he called “the ultimate price” — a lifetime prison term — for murdering his wife, Debra.

Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian added two terms of four years each for two counts of weapons possession.

Shanley sat motionless as the sentence was read.

Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian (STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia)

Moments earlier, he told the judge: “I feel bad for my family. I can’t turn back the hands of time.”

This only angered Jerejian.

“I”m taken aback by the complete lack of remorse for what you did to her,” the judge told Shanley, 61. “You feel sorry for your children and yourself, but I don’t think you have any remorse for what you did to her…. You killed a completely defenseless woman in her own home because she was going to move on with her life.

“She begged you for her life, and instead you stabbed her more than two dozen times, including slitting her throat,” Jerejian said.

“You have to pay the ultimate price.”

Deborah Shanley’s sister, Carol Simkins, made a statement before the sentence, then cried as the judge handed it down.

“My big sister, Deborah Shanley, was a wonderful mother and grandmother,” she said. “She tried to make everything special for her granddaughter.

”She was a beloved teacher and a mentor to her students, and a member of the Dumont Board of Education. She took the responsibility seriously.  She wasn’t just anybody. She was a valued person.”

Simkins said she and her husband sat through almost every day of the trial.

“The horrible act will leave scars on our family for generations to come.”

Jason Shanley, the oldest of the couple’s two sons, said he lost both parents “because of a single, selfish act.

“Although I miss my mom dearly, the person who has suffered the most is my daughter, Tara,” he told Jerejian. “It absolutely broke my heart to have to tell her Grandma Debbie was no longer with us, and I can’t even tell her what happened to her.

“It has been a struggle to get through these past few years. I have to stop myself from reaching for the phone to tell her what’s going on in my life.  There will forever be a void in our lives, and the only solace is that justice will be served.”

Defense attorney Brian Neary requested a maximum sentence of 30 years and insisted a much lighter term would be justified.

“He’s 61 years old, and he’ll die in prison, whichever you decide,” he told Jerejian.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Carol Novey-Catuogno, in turn, said the brutality of the murder and the need to deter others from such crimes made a life sentence necessary.

Jerejian agreed.

Shanley, flanked by lead defense attorney Brian Neary and co-counsel Emil Lisboa (STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. MIraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

He called domestic violence “a plague on our society” that he hoped would somehow be addressed by giving Shanley the maximum sentence.

Neary argued during the trial that Shanley should have been convicted of manslaughter, contending that he killed his wife of 35 years “in the course of passion, the result of provocation.”

Novey-Catuogno countered that Shanley never lost self-control and fully intended to kill the career educator and former Dumont Board of Education member.

( SEE: Dumont man convicted of murdering wife ).

He’d been so enraged, she told jurors, because his wife began riding a Harley motorcycle, joined a riding club and began laying the groundwork for a divorce.

Two weeks before Debra Shanley was killed, Novey-Catuogno noted, Peter took an electric saw to her bike.

Both sides agreed that Debra Shanley hit her 6-foot-3-inch husband with a lamp as he stood over her bed the night of April 10, 2010.

He then removed a club that he kept in a bedside table and struck her over the head with it at least eight times.

According to his own account to detectives, Shanley left the room, retrieved a fishing knife and returned – stabbing and cutting his wife several times. The fatal blow was to her throat.

Whether the attack flared suddenly or had been planned all along was the questions jurors had to answer.

  • SPECIAL REPORT: Was Deborah Shanley’s death a cold-blooded, planned and calculated murder, or was it a crime of passion that happened during a violent dispute that she started when she slammed a lamp into her husband’s head? This is the question jurors were asked today to decide in the murder trial of Peter Shanley of Dumont. READ MORE….

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Carol Novey-Catuogno, lead defense attorney Brian Neary, Shanley, co-defense counsel Emil Lisboa (STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

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