After only a day and a half of deliberations, a jury sitting in the Essex County Superior Court convicted Tina Lunney, a 45-year old Fairfield woman (pictured left), of murdering her mother, Marie Zoppi, who was 81. Specifically, it was alleged by the State throughout the trial that Lunney had strangled her mother with a necktie, an unprovoked attack motivated solely by Lunney’s desire to gain access to her mother’s credit cards for purposes of paying off the family’s debt (which she apparently incurred gambling in Atlantic City) and booking a vacation.
Throughout the trial, the jury heard how Zoppi was found strangled to death on July 22, 2009 in the home that she shared with her daughter, Lunney, Lunney’s husband (Chris, who testified as a witness for the State), and their two minor children. In a stone-cold, matter-of-fact 45-minute interview that she later gave to police, Lunney confessed to the killing, and to staging the scene to look like a suicide. Lunney’s attorney attempted to prove the jury that the confession was false, brought on by the stress of finding her mother dead, her family’s insurmountable debt, and the guilt of her extra-marital affair with a local police officer.
But it appears that the jury was more swayed by the witnesses presented by the State, more than a dozen in total, who corroborated the confession. A key witness was Lunney’s now ex-husband, Chris, who testified that his marriage was fraught with secrets, many of which he only learned after his now ex-wife’s arrest. He read to the jury a letter that his now ex-wife wrote to him from the jail, in which she again confessed to the murder. The jury also heard how Lunney went about her business for 24-hours after the murder, as if nothing had happened, before she fled to the Trump Marina casino in Atlantic City.
The jury convicted Lunney of Murder and Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose. Lunney, who sat emotionless as the verdict was read, now faces 30 years to life in prison. Her sentencing has been scheduled for July 26th.
For more information, see the Star-Ledger article entitled, “Jury finds Fairfield woman guilty of murdering her elderly mother.”