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Prosecutor calls Garfield florist’s partner ‘cold, calculating hunter’

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: “He is so cold, so calculating, that he sits and waits — like any good hunter would,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer told jurors during closing arguments yesterday in the murder trial of Thomas Battinelli, accused of killing his business partner of 20 years at their Garfield shop.

And he did it over money, she said.

Michael Murphy’s body was discovered on Jan. 6, 2010 by an employee who authorities said ran directly across Midland Avenue to the Garfield Police Department.

A rifle that belonged to Battinelli, which prosecutors said was the murder weapon, was found in a nearby walk-in refrigerator under a bundle of decorative branches.

“The fact it is Tom Battinelli’s gun and fingerprints isn’t proof,” defense attorney Brian Neary said during his closing argument in Hackensack.

“Tom Battinelli was a partner, not an employee, a skilled person in the industry,” Neary said. He had no motive, the defense attorney told jurors.

History repeated itself when Murphy brought Battinelli in, Grootenboer said.

“Murphy had a partner that was stealing from him” — and, two months later, “that partner was gone,” she said.

Then, on Jan. 5, 2010, Murphy interviewed someone from Fisher & Pagel, another florist company, after a customer told him she’d paid Battinelli in cash, Grootenboer said.

“Battinelli knew that in a couple of months he was going to be gone, just like that other partner was,” she said.

“How is he going to bounce back from that?” Grootenboer asked jurors. “Where can he go in the flower world that he can strike secret deals with customers and run the drivers like he could at G&M?”

Battinelli acknowledged to investigators” “I skimmed” what they claim was $81,883, beginning in 2006, she told jurors.

Based on the evidence, Grootenboer concluded, “we are sure that Thomas Battinelli had the means, he had the motive, and he had the opportunity.”

Since the outset, Neary has insisted that investigators rushed to judgment and never proved theft, motive, or that Battinelli hurt G&M’s business.

Cash transactions are “common” in the flower business and a standard way of payment, he said.

Although prosecutors meticulously dissected Battinelli’s receipts of cash and deposits into his personal account, “they never investigated G&M’s account,” Neary said. For instance, he said, a $20,000 payment from a florist could just as easily have been deposited into the business account.

“Not until months after, when Tom Battinelli was already arrested, did they piece together this moment,” Neary said.

Jurors began deliberations yesterday afternoon.

STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia


Prosecutors got ‘wrong man’ in Garfield florist partner’s murder, defense attorney says

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Money was the motive for Ridgefield flower salesman Thomas Battinelli to shoot his business partner in the back of the head as he sat at his desk, reading the Bergen Record, in their Garfield shop, a prosecutor told jurors in Hackensack during opening arguments in the murder trial this morning. But Battinelli’s attorney insisted they got the wrong man — and pointed instead to one of their drivers. READ MORE….

Son of slain Garfield florist speaks well of accused killer

CVP EXCLUSIVE: The son of a man shot dead at his wholesale flower business in Garfield had nothing but nice things to tell jurors today about his father’s business partner, who is standing trial for his murder. READ MORE….

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