Autopsy: NJ woman died from blunt force trauma

September 17, 2012 2:29:49 PM PDT
Prosecutors say an elderly woman whose body was found inside her burning northern New Jersey home died from blunt force trauma to her head and upper body.

However, it's still not clear whether an object was used to inflict the wounds on 70-year-old Barbara Vernieri. Her body was found shortly after police and firefighters arrived at her East Rutherford home around 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said Sunday that an autopsy determined Vernieri - a widow who lived alone - suffered the fatal injuries before the fire engulfed her home. It also found that while she may have inhaled carbon monoxide during the fire, the blunt force injuries to her head were the primary cause of death.

There also were no apparent stab wounds or lacerations on the body.

Molinelli also said investigators have not found any connection between Vernieri's killing and the unsolved homicides of two other county residents, both elderly women who were found dead after their homes were set on fire in 2010.

"While the utilization of fire is common to all three, there appears nothing remarkable to this incident which would leave law enforcement to assume that one or both of the prior incidents were committed by Ms. Vernieri's assailant," Molinelli said. "For the same reason, we have not ruled out the possibility of such a connection."

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