Fairfield Woman Staged Mother’s Death, Then Booked Vacation

Opening statements began this morning at the Essex County Superior Court in the trial of Tina Lunney, 45 (pictured left). According to Prosecutors, Lunney is responsible for the murder of her 84-year old mother, Marie Zoppi, who was found dead on July 23, 2009 in the basement of the Fairfield home that she shared with her daughter, her daughter’s husband, and the couple’s pre-teen children.

During opening statements that began this morning, Prosecutors argued that Lunney used a necktie to strangle her mother, and then staged the scene so that it looked like a suicide. She then used her mother’s credit cards to pay off outstanding bills and book a vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Prosecutors allege that Lunney’s actions were purposeful and knowing.

Lunney initially told police that she found her mother on the floor, unresponsive (although it was her husband that actually called 9-1-1). The next day, Lunney purportedly disappeared, and her family reported her missing. She was found by police walking in the neighborhood, at which point she confessed to having killed her mother.

The defense claims that Lunney is innocent, telling the jury that the victim either committed suicide or was killed by an unknown intruder. As for the confession, the defense further claims that it was the product of a psychotic break suffered by Lunney after she found her mother’s dead body. The break was apparently preceded by serious financial distress and guilt over an ongoing affair with a local police officer, which made Lunney “susceptible to the powers of suggestion.”

The first witnesses were expected to testify this afternoon.

For more information, see the Star-Ledger article entitled, “Prosecutor: Fairfield woman killed mother, 84, staged it to look like a suicide.”