Investigators are exploring whether the apparent homicide of an elderly East Rutherford woman could be linked to two similar Bergen County murders, including the 2010 slaying of a 74-year-old Teaneck activist.
Barbara R. Vernieri, identified as approximately 70 years old, was found dead Friday afternoon after authorities responded to a fire at her home on Sheppard Terrace in East Rutherford, according to Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli. Investigators believe she was killed sometime in the mid to late morning that day.
“Her body had been subjected to the fire but it appears that the cause of her death is the result of a homicide,” Molinelli said in a statement late Friday. The prosecutor did not confirm how the victim died, but northjersey.com cited an unnamed borough official who said she was possibly stabbed and the fire was set to destroy evidence.
Elements of the case were eerily similar to the unsolved murders of Teaneck town council regular Joan Davis and 69-year-old Palisades Park resident Dolores Alliotts. Davis was found bound, stabbed and beaten in her Alpine Drive home after it was set ablaze in August 2010.
Alliotts was found stabbed in April 2010 and her home set on fire.
Investigators, Molinelli said, could not “confirm or rule out” any link between the cases until a forensic examination set for Saturday was conducted of the deceased East Rutherford woman.
Molinelli if the Davis and Alliotts murders were connected. He did not immediately respond to a message seeking additional comment late Friday.
Davis, who lived alone, was well-known among residents and officials for regular appearances at council meetings and frequent critiques of the township management.
The prosecutor held a rare meeting with Teaneck elected officials and community leaders last year to discuss the Davis murder. At the time, he characterized the case as an “aggressive investigation” but has offered few details.