A New York man is accused of stabbing his wife 20 times and hiding her body in the woods after learning that she was having an affair, WABC-TV reports.
Authorities on Thursday arrested 43-year-old Marcello Molinari and charged him with second-degree murder in connection with the death of his wife, 38-year-old Melissa Molinari.
Witnesses last reported seeing the mother of four at one of her children’s soccer games on November 21.
The missing persons case had received increasing attention in recent days after Gabby Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, began publicizing Melissa’s disappearance on Twitter, according to WCBS-TV.
Investigators found Melissa’s body wrapped in plastic in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest after tracking her husband’s previous movements in the area using his phone.
Suffolk Homicide Commanding Officer Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer said investigators believe Melissa was killed at home.
“We’re working under the theory that the house is the crime scene, the car was used to transport her, and she was placed in the Pine Barrens,” Beyrer told reporters at a news conference, according to WABC-TV.
Marcello is said to have learned that his wife was having an affair during a family vacation to Disney World in early November. It is not clear how he learned of the affair, but the trip was reportedly cut short.
Since that time, police allege that he had been planning to kill Melissa and had researched countries that might not extradite him back to the United States. He is also said to have had plastic surgery on his face and signed up for a dating website.
Marcello told investigators that following an argument on November 23, Melissa left the family home with an unknown man and took her belongings with her. It is not clear whether this account has been substantiated, but Marcello claims that Melissa called him two days later to tell him to begin preparing Thanksgiving dinner, according to WABC-TV.
By December 2, with Melissa nowhere to be found, a friend reported her missing.
When police began investigating, Marcello allowed officers to search his wife’s van. A K-9 unit alerted to blood in the backseat, and investigators later found traces of blood in the family home’s basement.
Police also obtained access to Marcello’s phone, which showed that he had visited the Pine Barrens on November 23 and December 3.
Authorities searched the wooded area on Thursday and came upon Melissa’s mutilated body, which was reportedly wrapped in garbage bags, saran wrap, blankets, towels and duct tape, WCBS-TV reports. The body was also covered with branches and leaves.
A family friend is now caring for the couple’s children, who are aged 4 to 17, as well as a fifth child of Marcello’s from a former relationship.
Marcello’s lawyer, Christopher Gioe, alleges that law enforcement mistreated his client.
“The charges were here at the courthouse, the first time he was given an attorney was here at the courthouse,” Gioe told WABC-TV. “He’s informed me that he has asked for an attorney from the beginning of this investigation and he was denied the entire time.”
Gioe told WCBS-TV that Marcello contends he has done nothing wrong.
“He’s maintaining his innocence,” Gioe told the television station. “He’s never been arrested before. He’s never been in trouble and is gainfully employed. He was in the IT business.”
Investigators have reportedly talked with the person with whom Melissa had the affair with and that person claims their relationship ended in early November.
Beyrer called the killing a tragedy.
“This is a tragic case,” Beyrer said at the news conference. “There are five kids. All the lives that were destroyed in this. It’s just a terrible story.”
Marcello is being held without bond, according to WCBS-TV.
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