Saturday, July 4, 2009

Widow of NYFD fire marshal charged in his murder, then convicted, sentenced to 25 to life

(Original Post 3-22-08)
Janet Redmond-Mercereau, a Staten Island woman, was charged with 2nd degree murder, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence for allegedly shooting her husband to death while sleeping. The husband, Douglas Mercereau, was a NYFD fire marshal with a dozen years on the job. He was married a dozen years to Redmond-Mercereau with three daughters. The indictment came down Thursday night from the Richmond County (coterminous with Staten Island) grand jury, and Redmond-Mercereau was arrested immediately.

"She denies the allegations completely," her lawyer, Mario F. Gallucci, said Friday. "She is confident that if she is given a fair trial by Staten Islanders, that she will be acquitted of this charge."

Redmond-Mercereau, who was arraigned on the charges in an indictment unsealed Friday in state Supreme Court, faces a maximum penalty of 25 years to life if convicted on the murder charge. She entered a plea of not guilty.

Her husband, Douglas Mercereau, 38, was found in bed in their Staten Island home the morning of Dec. 2, 2007, shot three times in the head with Mercereau's service pistol. Redmond-Mercereau told investigators that she didn't hear the gunfire because she was wearing earplugs and was sleeping in another room with one of her children, who was sick.

According to the indictment, the defendant tampered with evidence found at the scene. Prosecutors alleged that she wiped traces of evidence off the Smith and Wesson pistol, removed shell casings and washed her clothing in an attempt to conceal the alleged crime.

There is no motive for the crime that prosecutors can put a finger on, and her husband's family issued a statement.

"We have patiently waited while the NYPD accumulated their evidence and completed their tests. In our hearts, we hope that a fair and just verdict is delivered swiftly, though we know that this too requires patience."

Mercereau, a 12 year veteran of the NYFD and married to his wife for 12 years, comes from a line of Huguenots (French Protestants) who settled Staten Island in the 1600s to flee persecution from Catholic France. They had separated, but reconciled their marriage before the shooting.

(Update 7-4-09) Redmond Mercereau was sentenced to 25 years to life for killing her husband in a Staten Island courtroom Thursday. On May 21, the wife of fire marshal Doug Mercereau was convicted after 3 1/2 days of deliberation, mostly spent 9-3 in favor of conviction.

The killer was first implicated when spent shell casings from the murder were found in the basement of their home. Because Mercereau was a weapons instructor, prosecutors sucessfully argued that the bullet fired through an archery target was a test shot. The DA, Daniel M. Donovan also sucessfully argued that the reason no blood was found on the weapon and the clothes worn during the murder was because Mrs. Redmond Mercereau washed her clothes and the murder weapon.

The killer's behavior after the murder aroused suspicion. The motive was because Mrs. Redmond-Mercereau was upset by her husband's criticism of her weight and housekeeping, according to prosecutors.

Ms. Redmond-Mercereau's behavior in the weeks following her husband's death -- but prior to her arrest -- earned her the nickname the "Merry Widow": She chopped down a favorite oak tree of her husband's a month after he was killed, and while under a cloud of suspicion in his death the five-foot-three, 240-pound woman posed for photographers and said she felt "like a model."

Fire Department Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said, "this was a terrible tragedy, especially for the Mercereaus' children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Justice Robert J. Collini also invoked the children when passing sentence.

"You stole away the father of your two little girls...In the final analysis, you stole away their own mother, too."

The victim's sister, Betsy Gallo, said outside the courthouse, "Yes, it's absolutely closure...Doug appreciated justice. This is a just day."

Mrs. Redmond-Mercereau said nothing during her sentencing, but her attorneys plan to appeal.

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