Melanie McGuire piled her 4- and 1-year-old boys into her Nissan Pathfinder for the short trip to the Kinder Kastle day-care center in Metuchen, N.J.
McGuire, a registered nurse, had already called in sick at the Morristown fertility clinic where she worked, explaining she’d had a fight with her husband, Bill. Melanie’s boss at Reproductive Medicine Associates, Dr. Bradley Miller, suggested she pop a Xanax.
When she got back to the family’s town house in Woodbridge, the block was still as death – deserted by commuters already headed off to work.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, her sleeping 39-year-old husband, a computer analyst, barely moved. McGuire stared at him as she picked up a pillow and shoved a .38-caliber rifle up against it.
What happened next stunned her sedate bedroom community, her family, her closest friends and the nation.
McGuire shot her husband once in the forehead and three times in the chest, drained his body of blood, dismembered the corpse, stuffed the parts in garbage bags and suitcases and tossed them into Chesapeake Bay.
The astounding brutality shocked everyone who knew the petite, 5-foot-4 brunette. Prosecutors argued it was a grisly exit from her loveless marriage. McGuire, they say, was having a steamy affair with her boss, and feared a messy divorce and custody battle.
According to testimony at her murder trial – which concluded last week with her conviction – McGuire bought a 2-ounce bottle of chloral hydrate from the Walgreens on Durham Road in Edison just after she’d dropped her boys off at day care the morning of April 28, 2004.
Later that day, she joined her husband at a law office to close the deal and to collect the keys to their first home together, a $500,000 center-hall colonial on acreage in a quiet community.
It should have been one of the happiest days of their lives, after having scrimped and saved for the pricey down payment while living in their town-house complex.
But instead, Melanie celebrated by serving her husband a sedative-laced glass of wine, prosecutors say. The details of the circumstantial evidence case have left everyone around McGuire – and the rapt audience that watched on Court TV – reeling.
Judge Frederick DeVasa described it as a “very horrible and brutal murder with an obvious level of complexity and methodical detail.”
Melanie used the Internet to research “undetectable poisons” and “how to commit a murder,” experts who examined the McGuire’s home computer told the jury.
The new-house purchase was somewhat unplanned – although Bill spent endless hours hunting for their perfect home, his wife never expected he would actually come up with the cash to buy a property.
After sedating her husband, Melanie was pressed on the phone by Dr. Miller, who yelled at her: “Why do you want to buy a half-million-dollar house if you ultimately want to get a divorce from Bill?”
That same night, she sent Miller a message that everything would be fine and then called him to say her husband had fallen asleep and when he woke up, she would ask him for a divorce.
She would later tell police she and Bill argued at 2 a.m. and that Bill struck her and forced a dryer sheet in her mouth before he walked out of the Plaza Drive town house in a rage at 2:30 a.m.
At 6:17 a.m. on Thursday, April 29, a message was sent from Bill’s BlackBerry saying he wouldn’t be in to work because he was sick. But the message bounced back because it was addressed incorrectly.
“Daddy’s asleep, come on, let’s get in the car and go to day care,” Assistant Attorney General Patricia Prezioso mimicked to the jury, as she ticked off the sickening details of the murder.
She returned after the couple’s neighbors had already left for work, and used the pillow to muffle the gunshots and to prevent blood from splattering.
MELANIE then dragged her husband’s body into the couple’s shower and used bags of ice to keep his body from decomposing. The stall contained the body fluids and was easy to clean.
Prezioso said that after picking up her kids at day care, Melanie shuttled them to her parents’ home in Barnegat.
Now, Melanie had plenty of time to drain the body of blood, cut it up and put the parts in garbage bags and then in three Kenneth Cole-brand black and green suitcases.
Later that night, Melanie checked herself into the Red Roof Inn in Edison, where she stayed for three nights.
Just after midnight April 30, a surveillance camera caught someone getting out of Bill’s 2002 blue Nissan Maxima near the Flamingo Hotel in Atlantic City. Later that day, Melanie sought a restraining order against her husband in New Brunswick.
On May 3, toll records showed Melanie drove overnight through Delaware; prosecutors say that was also when she tossed the suitcases containing her husband’s body from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
Melanie later claimed she made a trip to Delaware to look at furniture because the state didn’t have any sales tax.
Two days later, the first suitcase was found by a man fishing from a boat near the bridge tunnel.
“It was a pair of legs, from the knees down. They looked like they had been sawed off,” the jury was told by a witness.
On Tuesday, May 11, the second suitcase was discovered by a bird-watcher on the shore of Fisherman Island, Va. It contained Bill’s upper body and head. The following Sunday, a boater discovered the third suitcase floating near the second island of the bridge tunnel. It contained Bill McGuire’s lower torso and other body parts.
The body was identified May 21, when Virginia Beach Police released a sketch of the murder victim and a Navy friend of Bill’s, Jonathon Rice, stepped forward suggesting the victim was Bill McGuire.
On May 25, Melanie filed for divorce, and the very next day, police advised her of her husband’s death. She moved from the family’s Woodbridge house the following week.
Prosecutors said they had little doubt Melanie had an accomplice, and Prezioso pointed to Melanie’s stepfather, Michael Cappararo, who helped Melanie ditch Bill’s car in Atlantic City, and Selene Trivizas, who helped scrub Melanie’s apartment when she moved.
Neither Cappararo nor Trivizas have been charged. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office would not say whether they were or would be under investigation. Both were unavailable for comment.
Prezioso said Melanie was motivated by the desire to escape from a loveless marriage so she could intensify her relationship with Miller, who was also married. And she knew a divorce from Bill would be costly and not easy – that he would fight for custody of their children.
Melanie was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in June 2005, and custody of the couple’s children was awarded to Bill’s sister, Cindy Ligosh, of Franklin Lakes, N.J. Ligosh and Melanie’s parents, Linda and Michael Cappararo, are currently battling for custody of the boys, now ages 4 and 7.
Since last week’s conviction, Melanie has been admitted to a West Trenton psychiatric hospital for observation. She faces 30 years to life in prison.
“Being incarcerated is horrendous for her,” said Allison LiCalsi, a longtime friend of Melanie’s who insists Melanie is innocent.
“She’s struggling to get through her daily existence.
“She’s devastated, but is most concerned for her sons.”
MEANWHILE, her family and friends are pinning their hopes on plans for an appeal.
Melanie’s high-powered lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, will file a motion for either a mistrial or a new trial by a May 10 deadline, and will officially appeal the verdict on her July 13 sentencing date.
“Outside influences have prejudiced the deliberations,” Tacopina said.
“I would not have come into this case unless I was 100 percent convinced of her innocence,” he told reporters.
Defense co-counsel Stephen Turano said jurors had access to pre-verdict publicity by reading blogs. After being dismissed from the jury, one woman sent the rest of the panelists a letter that wished them well and encouraged them to “do the right thing.” The juror also wrote that she was the one with the “hard eyes” – referring to a blog entry that was made during the trial.
Turano also hinted that new evidence may have come to light after high publicity of the case in the past week.
“But I do believe that there was just too much reasonable doubt for a jury to convict,” he said.
LiCalsi said she believed Bill’s murder was linked to his Atlantic City connections. Bill was known to spend a lot of time gambling there.
“The prosecutor’s summation – it skimmed over a lot of missing details, but I think the jury didn’t see the holes in the case,” LiCalsi said.
“We were all convinced that she would be acquitted.”