Report: Fla. man admits to '92 murder in S. Jersey

Posted: January 29, 2014

THE WEEKEND'S SNOW still covered the sidewalks outside Doris McGarry's condominium, and when police finally broke in that Monday, they found her dead on the living-room floor with a bag over her head.

It was 22 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1992, and the murder of the private and quiet office manager at the Hollows Condominium Association in Evesham, Burlington County, sent fear through the community - particularly when no arrests were made in the ensuing weeks.

McGarry, who lived alone with a German shepherd, was forgotten as time passed and new tenants arrived at the Hollows. But Evesham Township police said the case, after two decades, is no longer cold, thanks to a seemingly unrelated arrest in Florida.

In November, police in Broward County arrested Rosario "Ross" Melici, 60, and an accomplice in the stabbing deaths of an elderly couple in Deerfield Beach. Melici, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, had an "extensive criminal past."

This month the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reported that Melici admitted to killing McGarry in 1992 and to killing his accomplice in her death two years later. The story, citing search warrants, said Melici told investigators in Broward County that McGarry was handling an estate inheritance and that an heir, Patricia Lavary, had her husband, Christopher, and Melici kill her.

Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, said McGarry's murder is still an active investigation and declined to comment on the Sun Sentinel article.

At the time of McGarry's death, police had little information to go on. Her house, according to a report in the Inquirer at the time, had been ransacked and she had been beaten on the head and ultimately suffocated with a plastic bag. Her dog, Michael, was found alive in another room.

"It was frustrating. There was just nothing," said lawyer Stephen Raymond, who was the Burlington County prosecutor when McGarry was murdered. "This sounds like a good break."

Melici, according to the Sun Sentinel, told investigators that he murdered Lavary, too, luring him into a wooded area in Staten Island in 1994 and shooting him. Lavary's wife had asked Melici to kill him for the insurance money, he told investigators.

For Lavary's children, the news is not a surprise. Melici was charged with his murder and spent 20 months in jail before prosecutors in New York dropped the charges.

"There's no more closure now than there was before," Christal Lavary told the Daily News yesterday.

Lavary said she was 14 when McGarry was murdered. She said that McGarry, whom she didn't know, was handling the estate for her deceased aunt and uncle. Her mother, Patricia, had drug problems and wanted the money.

Christopher Lavary Jr. said he was 19 when McGarry died, and was questioned by police, but he never believed his father would have killed anyone.

Raymond couldn't recall whether McGarry had any relatives.

According to the Sun Sentinel, Melici later settled in South Florida. The Broward County Sherriff's Office alleges that he and Michael A. Marotta, his roommate in Lake Worth, fatally stabbed Phillip and Barbara Russo, 88 and 78, and stole jewelry in November.

Barbara Russo, like Doris McGarry, was also found with a bag over her head.

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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