Murder charge dropped, Stanhope man free - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Murder charge dropped, Stanhope man free

Posted: Updated:
Ianetti Ianetti

By JESSICA MASULLI REYES

jmasulli@njherald.com

NEWTON — After nearly four years of waiting in jail for a trial, a Stanhope man accused of stabbing his wife 47 times walked out of the Sussex County jail Wednesday as a free man.

The first-degree murder charge against Valentino Ianetti Jr., 63, was dropped, despite a dispute between the prosecution and defense on whether Ianetti’s wife, Pamela, committed suicide or was murdered on Dec. 8, 2009, at the couple’s house on New Street. The prosecution requested the dismissal Wednesday after realizing that it would not be possible right now to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ianetti’s court-appointed attorney, Steven Insley, said that Wednesday was an emotional day for Ianetti, who has maintained his innocence since the first 9-1-1 call when he found his wife stabbed in their bedroom.

“He cried for a while about having spent all that time in jail and realizing he was getting released,” Insley said. “After that, he was very angry that nobody believed him.”

Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said that the dismissal of the charges was done “without prejudice,” which means that if future investigations point conclusively to murder, then “the charges can be reinstated in the future.”

“(The dismissal) does not mean we believe the defense expert was necessarily correct; we simply felt that a reasonable doubt existed concerning the defendant’s guilt,” Mueller said. “We have a very high standard of proof, and ethically a prosecutor cannot bring a prosecution unless he or she believes that the burden can be sustained.”

On the night of the incident, Ianetti called police dispatch at 2:09 a.m., saying his wife of about 37 years was lying on the floor of the bedroom with multiple wounds, according to an arrest affidavit. Ianetti cooperated with police and had blood on his hands, but smelled as though he had just showered or washed, the affidavit says.

Investigators used a search warrant to recover a long knife covered with blood, according to the affidavit. From an autopsy, Dr. Junaid Shaikh, a former Sussex County medical examiner, determined the death to be a murder caused by multiple sharp force wounds to the thorax and neck.

“The medical examiner who determined the manner and cause of death ... has not changed his opinion,” Mueller said.

Mueller said that on May 24 the defense sent a report challenging the manner of death and offering evidence of a suicide. In response, the prosecutor’s office consulted and retained a toxicologist, a crime scene expert and finally a forensic pathologist to review the defense’s findings.

“After carefully reviewing the findings, the state concluded that a reasonable doubt currently exists concerning the defendant’s guilt,” Mueller said.

Mueller then filed a motion to dismiss the indictment and went before Judge Thomas J. Critchley in Superior Court in Morristown Wednesday due to the backlog of cases and lack of space at the courthouse in Newton. The judge granted the motion.

Ianetti had been held in the Sussex County jail on $500,000 bail.

Insley characterized the prosecution’s motion differently, saying that the prosecution realized that Ianetti is innocent.

“He did not kill his wife,” Insley said. “He has been saying since the day he was arrested that his wife committed suicide and no one would listen to him. The evidence from the beginning was overwhelming.”

Insley said the evidence indicated that Pamela Ianetti ingested a large number of prescription opioids and then stabbed herself over and over, with the first wounds being non-life threatening, followed by the more deadly wounds.

Mueller contends that the number of opioids found in her system is still disputed among the experts.

Pamela Ianetti, who died at the age of 57, was a registered nurse at Morris View Nursing Home in Morris Township until her retirement in 2003. She lived in Lake Hiawatha for 10 years before moving to Stanhope in 1983, her obituary said.

In 2009, the prosecutor’s office said that Valentino Ianetti, who has an aortic aneurysm, had been living in Colorado for a time and then “returned relatively recently” to Stanhope. The house had been for sale for 10 months before the incident.

Insley said that after Ianetti was released, he was taken to a friend’s house where he will live temporarily since he no longer owns his house. Ianetti could not be located for comment Thursday.

“He is trying to figure out what he is going to do next,” Insley said.

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