Colleagues say they saw clues to deadly affair

Posted: June 30, 2010

Hindsight being what it is, Al Funari looks back now and notices the clues to a murderous affair.

It was a month or so ago, Funari said, that his boss, Kevin Mengel, shuffled the staff at MKB, his Chester County landscaping business.

Mengel paired his wife, Morgan, with a young man who had been mowing lawns on a team with Funari. Morgan Mengel and her new work partner, Steve Shappell, certainly seemed to hit it off, Funari said.

Still, Funari said, he didn't think twice when Morgan Mengel came to work last week and announced her husband had left her and would not return. Or when she arrived at the garage on subsequent mornings with Shappell.

And it was still later, Funari said, that he remembered how unusually clean the company's garage had been when he reported to work that Monday - three days after police said the couple had drugged Kevin Mengel there before Shappell bludgeoned him with a shovel.

"Normally there was water or some oil from leaks, but that floor was clean," Funari said. "It was spotless."

Funari recounted his experience in an interview on Tuesday as Morgan Mengel, 34, remained in Chester County Prison and her alleged lover, Shappell, 21, waived an extradition hearing in Colorado and agreed to return home to face murder and conspiracy charges.

Chester County First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Carmody said a preliminary hearing on the case scheduled for Thursday had been postponed until July 22.

Prosecutors say the pair began their affair in March and plotted Kevin Mengel's murder so they could stay together. According to police, Morgan Mengel confessed on Friday, the same day Shappell jumped in her truck and fled the area. Denver police arrested him Sunday outside a motel. Kevin Mengel's body was found the day before, buried near Marple Newtown High School.

Funari, 39, said the episode had been surreal. He said he first met Mengel, 33, about 15 years ago, when they had mutual friends in Chester County. Like the Mengels, he said, he has three children.

But Funari said he had not seen or spoken to Kevin Mengel in years until a friend called this spring and helped arrange the job.

Funari, who lives with his family in Bel Air, Md., said he would drive nearly 90 minutes each morning to the MKB garage in West Goshen Township.

For the first month, Funari said, he and Shappell were assigned to the same three-man lawn-mowing team. He said he knew Shappell had been with the company for at least six months because Shappell talked about plowing snow with the Mengels last winter.

Shappell seemed comfortable, even content, at his job, Funari said.

"He came across as a happy-go-lucky kid," Funari said. "He did not come across as a cold-blooded killer."

According to Funari, Kevin Mengel devoted his time to hardscaping projects, such as building retaining walls, while his wife and another worker focused on mulching and landscape maintenance.

In May, Mengel let that other worker go and reassigned Shappell to work exclusively with his wife, according to Funari. He said the pair were clearly comfortable with each other.

"The flirting and stuff like that - it was so obvious," Funari said. "I'm sure Kevin had to see it."

But Funari said he never brought it up.

Another man who said he worked briefly for the company this spring said Morgan Mengel seemed focused on money. Lee Enderle Sr. said she told him she wanted her husband to get into the car-repossession business because it would be more lucrative than landscaping.

Both employees said Kevin Mengel was dedicated to his job.

"It seemed like the man was on a mission to succeed," Enderle said.

Funari said he dealt as much with Morgan Mengel as with her husband. She would regularly call his cell phone to check on his progress. He said she was typically pleasant and a little calmer than her husband.

Funari said he first noticed a change last Monday, when Morgan Mengel announced that her husband had left and she would run their business alone.

Two days later, Funari said, she never showed up for work.

When he called her cell phone, Funari said, Morgan Mengel said she was at home taking care of their children. He heard noises and asked where she was.

At the pool, she replied.

"And not only that - she's poolside with Steve," Funari said.

Even with Kevin Mengel gone, Funari said he had no plans to leave the job. He said MKB owes him about $1,400 in back pay.

Funari said he was the first employee to the garage on Friday morning, and was greeted by West Goshen Police Detective David Maurer, who led the investigation.

Funari said the detective asked him about a possible affair between the two employees and about Kevin Mengel's whereabouts. He also said Maurer also asked him if there was a freezer on the premises.

Maurer's affidavit confirms the interview with Funari, but does not include details of his questions.

Not long after, Morgan Mengel and Shappell pulled up in her truck, according to Funari and the affidavit.

"Steve was nervous" as the detective began questioning the woman, Funari said. "He was literally shaking."

Funari said he wanted to begin his shift and asked Shappell to move the truck. That's when Shappell sped off, he said.

Funari said he did not realize the seriousness until he came back later that afternoon. An officer was blocking the driveway entrance.

"He told me the shop was locked down, nobody in or out: It's a crime scene."


Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 610-313-8120 or jmartin@phillynews.com.

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