When police arrived at Jeffrey Scott Fine Jewelry in Franklin Park that sunny afternoon, they found Brenda Lee Wolf, 31, dead on the floor. She had been shot through the cheek from less than two feet away.
Outside, they found a man, later identified as Marquis Kennon of Kansas City, Kan., bleeding from four gunshot wounds. Wolf's husband, Jeffrey, told them that Kennon and two other men had come into the store posing as delivery men. Kennon knocked Brenda Wolf to the floor, pulled a gun, and shot her, Wolf said.
Wolf then grabbed his own gun and shot his wife's assailant, he told police.
Except that ballistics tests later showed that Brenda Wolf was killed by her husband's .357 Magnum, and that Kennon's gun had never been fired; in fact, the safety was still on.
At that point, Jeffrey Wolf went into seclusion, saying he was too grief- stricken to discuss the discrepancies with police. For two weeks, a frustrated Bissell waited to re-interview Wolf, threatening to charge him with obstruction of justice if he kept his silence.
During that time, Brenda Wolf's father publicly questioned his son-in-law's version of events. His skepticism continued even as authorities arrested two more Midwesterners and accused them of helping Kennon rob the store. All three also face murder charges.
On Wednesday, the plot thickened as a dentist who lived less than two miles
from the store and had both bought and sold jewelry there was charged in the case.
And on Thursday, Jeffrey Wolf finally emerged from his self-imposed exile and spent seven hours with police and other investigators. He helped reenact what happened in the store on March 14.
The robbers, said Bissell, "had some indication that of the two, (Brenda Wolf) was the tougher." So Kennon, he said, vaulted the jewelry store counter immediately and tackled the 4-foot-11 woman.
Jeffrey Wolf told police on Thursday that he lunged for his gun, which was under the counter. When he turned back toward the pair, he said, Kennon had drawn his own gun - a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol - and was trying to fire.
What happened next, police say, is that Wolf's gun went off as his wife struggled up from the floor. "She caught the first round in the left side of her face," Bissell said. "She fell, and he continued to fire at Kennon."
Kennon has told police that he never drew his weapon.
In fact, Bissell said, given that everything happened so fast, authorities may have as complete an explanation as they're ever going to get.
Even now, the prosecutor said, Wolf has stopped short of confirming what the evidence actually shows.
"Did he say he has a recollection now of seeing her shot by his weapon? No," Bissell said. But, he added, "there is no indication - and there never has been - that he purposely shot his wife."
Jeffrey Wolf's explanation - and Bissell's acceptance of it - failed to satisfy Brenda Wolf's parents, George and Gayle Marks of Flushing, N.Y.
"Am I angry!" Gayle Marks said yesterday. "This is wrong."
She is still puzzled by reports that Geoffrey Wolf bought $2,000 worth of jewelry - much of it believed stolen - from the dentist who was arrested in the case. Bissell said that there was no indication Jeffrey Wolf knew the jewelry might have been hot.
Meanwhile, authorities are seeking at least one more person - Avram David Gottlieb of Kansas City, Mo., believed to be the plot's mastermind - and possibly another, a mystery man to whom the others handed off their weapons after the failed heist.
As to why a Midwestern crime gang would pick on a store in rural central New Jersey, Bissell shrugged. When the dentist, Harry Insabella of Franklin Park, tried to sell the Wolfs his jewelry, they told him that much of it was below the quality that they stocked in their tiny store.
"That may have made (the thieves) believe that the remainder of what they had was extremely valuable, and made him a ripe target," Bissell said. ''. . . Here was a little country, out-of-the way place."
But he stressed - as he has said about so many of the case's unanswered questions - that was just speculation.
One thing is almost certain, he added: If Wolf had not had a gun, if Kennon had not been shot, and Brenda Wolf had not been killed, this would have been just one more unsolved jewelry store holdup.