MORRISTOWN N.J. (Reuters) - A jury convicted a New Jersey man on Wednesday of murdering his ex-wife, who he called a messy housekeeper and whose body was found stabbed 84 times and wearing a pig mask.
Jurors deliberated less than five hours before reaching their verdict in the trial of Anthony Novellino, 67, who prosecutors said used an 8-inch kitchen knife to slay Judith Novellino, 62, in June 2010.
He faces life in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 12.
As the jury forewoman read the verdict in Morris County Superior Court, Novellino sat impassively. He was found guilty of all charges, including murder, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, unlawful possession of a weapon, hindering his own apprehension and tampering with evidence.
Judith Novellino was killed in her former home in Denville, New Jersey, when she came back to retrieve some of her belongings soon after they divorced.
“Hopefully, Judy Novellino’s family can now have some sense of solace that the defendant was convicted of this heinous crime,” Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp said in a statement after the verdict.
Anthony Novellino’s attorney, Michael Priarone, who said he would not be representing Novellino after his sentencing, declined to comment on the jury decision or on why he would no longer represent his client. He said Novellino has a right to appeal the verdict.
In her closing argument on Tuesday, Assistant Morris County Prosecutor Margaret Calderwood said the pig mask that Novellino placed on the face of his ex-wife’s body signaled a deliberate state of mind that warranted a jury verdict of murder.
“You don’t methodically go to the closet and pull out a pig mask and put it on her” without being fully aware of your actions, she said.
Priarone in his closing argument asked the jury to find that his client suffered a kind of temporary insanity, which could have reduced a murder charge to manslaughter.
Attorneys for both sides said Anthony Novellino had emailed photos of the unkempt condition of the home to friends and relatives and had complained that Judith Novellino kept a sloppy home, which was a sticking point in their divorce proceedings.
(This story has been corrected to fix Anthony Novellino’s age to 67 instead of 66)
Reporting by Bruce Konviser; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Bill Trott and Eric Beech