Today begins Part One of "Deadly Secrets," a 15-part series in the Newark Star-Ledger about Robert Zarinsky, the imprisoned New Jersey killer who was convicted of the brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl and remains the chief suspect in a long string of unsolved homicides in the state. It was written by two-time Pulitzer finalist Robin Gaby Fisher, based on more than a year of reporting by her and fellow Ledger staffer Judith Lucas. The Ledger asked me to narrate the daily podcast version of the series and I was happy to oblige. It's a powerful - and sometimes almost unbelievable - story about how a killer eluded justice for years and left a long trail of death and ruined lives behind him. And why he just might go free before long.
If the name sounds familiar, it's because Zarinsky's been in the news again lately. In 1999, he was charged with the murder of a Rahway police officer during a botched robbery in 1958, a case that had gone unsolved for more than 40 years. Though Zarinsky's own sister testified against him, he was ultimately acquitted. According to the jury foreman, the jurors believed Zarinsky had done it, but that prosecutors, hampered by the passage of time since the crime, hadn't adequately proven their case. The officer's wife - Elizabeth Bernoskie - sued Zarinsky for wrongful death and was awarded $9.5 million in 2003, though she only collected $150,000, via a mutual fund Zarinsky had inherited. Bernoskie, now 76, used the money to pay legal fees and then split the rest amongst her six children. But Zarinsky sued back and, last month, an appellate court sided with him and ordered Bernoskie to repay the $150,000 - money she no longer has - to Zarinsky. She's now in danger of having to forfeit her house in order to meet the judgment.
It's quite a story, and quite a series.