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Husband of missing Emerson woman changed identity after illegally entering U.S.

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Detectives investigating the disappearance of an Emerson mom have discovered that her husband entered the U.S. illegally from Ireland and for the past 15 years has been living under an assumed name.

Using the name Joseph Murphy, 51-year-old Paschal Delahunty became a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) in 1990, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said in announcing Delanhunty’s arrest this afternoon.

Delahunty, a painter, was being held on $350,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with possession of a false government document, after being arrested at his Broad Street home early this morning. A state court judge in Hackensack orderd him to surrender all passports in both names and banned him from travel outside New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the investigation of the sudden disappearance of Liza Murphy was continuing.

The former Liza Stellatos went missing just days before her husband deliberately walked out in front of a fire official’s cruiser in a suicide attempt in neighboring Westwood. A recovering alcoholic, he had tried to kill himself once before, in 1990, authorities said at the time.

Police earlier had questioned him about his then-42-year-old wife’s disappearance, which was reported by one of her friends. He told them she took off after he confronted her about an affair, leaving behind her purse, cellphone, keys, cigarettes — and their three children.

Nor did she bring medication she was taking for fibromyalgia, a sometimes debilitating muscle and tissue condition, authorities said.

Police in Emerson gathered about 200 people and searched the woods around the Oradell Reservoir after Murphy was officially declared missing in late August 2007.

They didn’t find anything.

The case turned bizarre when Delahunty walked into traffic five days after his wife’s disappearance, trying to kill himself, and suffered a broken hip. He has refused to speak with investigators since.

Searchers had new hope five years ago, when a tipster led detectives to the back of the town’s American Legion Hall, where they quietly did some digging a few days ago.

A law enforcement source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT at the time that they didn’t find anything of value — but that the probe was far from a cold case.

“During the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Liza Murphy, who was last seen on August 19, 2007, it was determined through interviews and evidence that her husband was using a false identity, and for years represented himself to be one Joseph Murphy with a date of birth of 3/11/1968,” Molinelli said today.

“Further investigation revealed that he is an immigrant of Ireland who entered the United States illegally, and whose legal name is Paschal Delahunty, with a date of birth of 4/13/1963,” he said.

Sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that Delahunty came from County Carlow.

“On 12/1/1990, Paschal Delahunty became a permanent resident of the United States, utilizing the false name Joseph Murphy,” the prosecutor said.

Delahunty “obtained a New Jersey driver’s license, and other government documents, under false pretenses in an effort to conceal his true identity,” he said.

The arrest resulted from an investigation by members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Major Crimes Unit, the Emerson Police Department and the federal Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Molinelli said.

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