Friends and family of rallied Wednesday outside the Bergen County courthouse, calling for a special prosecutor to take over the nearly year-old unsolved case they say has been botched by the county prosecutor.
More than 40 people protested outside the courthouse, holding signs demanding justice and calling County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli incompetent. The group has accused Molinelli, whose office is handling the probe, of making missteps in the case and has asked state officials to intervene.
Larry Seltzer, who knew Cantor for 26 years, said he hoped the protest would spur action in the case.
“We’re all optimistic that bringing it the attention it deserves is going to move it forward,” Seltzer said. “It’s not going to bring Rob back, but we need closure.”
Investigators have been given a likely suspect in the March 2011 killing, those close to Cantor have said.
“It’s a reminder everyday that there’s a person running around responsible for killing our friend,” Seltzer said. “It’s what the frustration is all about, it’s a known person of interest, the prosecutor knows all about it."
A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office said Molinelli had no comment on the rally, but released a statement noting the recent high-profile arrest of an .
“We continue to vigorously pursue the Cantor case and will not cease until we have sufficient proofs to make an arrest,” Molinelli’s statement said. “Our Major Crimes Squad is the unit responsible for solving 17 cold case homicides during my ten years here and recently made a significant arrest of a firebomber (Anthony Graziano) whose alleged conduct placed many people at risk and thousands at a very frightened state in this County.”
Friends of Cantor’s said they have lost faith in Molinelli’s investigation, but continue to hold out hope the case will be solved.
“We would prefer this be handled by someone who can get a fresh take on this,” Ted Finkelstein, another longtime friend, said. “It shouldn’t take 11 months to catch a murderer when they know who did it.”
The group wrote to Gov. Chris Christie three times, but was eventually referred back to Molinelli’s office after the state Attorney General’s Office said it could not release information about the case.
Attorney General’s Office spokesman Peter Aseltine said the office reviewed the case and found Molinelli’s investigation was being handled in an “appropriate manner.”
State officials would assist if county authorities make the request and help is needed, the spokesman said.
After the rally, friends and family met with staff at Congressman Steve Rothman's office. The Congressman's staff discussed the case with Molinelli's office, said Rothman spokesman Aaron Keyak.
"Congressman Rothman's deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Mr. Cantor. Congressman Rothman has great confidence that Prosecutor Molinelli will see that justice is done," Keyak said in an e-mail.
Cantor was murdered by a New York man who had previously threatened the Elm Avenue resident, according to Jay Salpeter, a private investigator and former NYPD detective . Investigators have so far been unable to come up with enough evidence to arrest the unidentified man.
“They’ve got to place the person of interest in the neighborhood,” Salpeter said.
The private detective has established a tip line for any information in the case, and has questioned why Bergen authorities have not set up their own dedicated hotline.
Salpeter said he suggested that county authorities polygraph a woman who might have knowledge of the killing. The woman, who Salpeter would not identify, had a “close relationship” with Cantor.
Molinelli’s detectives have declined to conduct the polygraph because the person is cooperating in the investigation, Salpeter said.
“I do believe the prosecutor is agreeable that we all know who the person of interest is,” Salpeter said. “I’m not here to compete with them (county detectives). I’m here to assist.”
Salpeter said he has interviewed the person and he is not likely to flee the area.
"It was a congenial interview because, of course, there was a denial," Salpeter said. "I think he's very comfortable with the lack of production."
Cantor's friends said they will not let the unsolved murder fade away and believe the case could be solved with the right resources. Still, the loss of their friend and push for answers has taken a toll.
“It’s hard,” Seltzer said. “Rob was the most peaceful, loveable person that I knew.”
The killing is one of two unsolved murders in Teaneck since August 2010. Outspoken resident after her Alpine Drive home was set ablaze. Molinelli has said the two cases , but has not shared additional details of either crime or named any suspects.
Salpeter's tipline can be reached at 917-696-2991.
Article updated 11:15 p.m. Wednesday.