An ‘Eerily Similar’ Murder-for-Hire
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at two cases in New Jersey — one a murder-for-hire case apparently orchestrated by a political consultant, the other unsolved. A son of the couple in the second case sees a possible connection to the first. We’ll also tour a new terminal at La Guardia, the airport New Yorkers love to hate.
A memorial service for John and Joyce Sheridan, pictured in the photograph on the easel, in October 2014.Credit…Mel Evans/Associated Press
The two cases in New Jersey unfolded four months apart in 2014, one in May, the other in September. Let’s start with the September case, the one that remains unsolved.
The victims — John Sheridan, a former state transportation commissioner, and his wife, Joyce — had been stabbed in their Montgomery Township home, which had been set on fire. A county prosecutor ruled their deaths a murder-suicide, a finding the couple’s four sons took issue with. They campaigned to have the case reopened. Then, in 2017, a state medical examiner amended the death certificate, reclassifying the manner of death as “undetermined.”
That’s where things stood — publicly, at least — until last week, when new details emerged about the May 2014 case, which happened 50 miles away in Jersey City.
That case involved the death of Michael Galdieri, the son of a former state senator. Last week, Sean Caddle, 44, a political consultant who had employed Galdieri and had close ties to some North Jersey Democrats, pleaded guilty to hiring two men who stabbed Galdieri and set fire to his apartment. It was not clear why he wanted Galdieri killed.
Mark Sheridan, the son of the victims in the September case, immediately saw a possible connection. He told New Jersey’s acting attorney general and the Somerset County prosecutor in a letter that “your offices all but laughed at my family’s suggestion that my parents’ deaths were anything other than a murder-suicide.” He said that both offices had “openly mocked the idea of a killing for hire involving a stabbing with a fire set to destroy evidence.”
[Plea in Murder-for-Hire Plot Revives Questions About 2 Unsolved Deaths]
He also called their attention to a knife found when the police stopped and searched a pickup truck in connection with a 2014 bank robbery in Connecticut.
He said the investigators in New Jersey had repeatedly asked about a knife that was missing from the kitchen of his parents’ house. He suggested that the authorities obtain DNA evidence from the knife in the pickup truck to see whether it was linked to their deaths.
Local news reports from Connecticut at the time said the knife from the Sheridans’ kitchen had been found in the pickup truck that George Bratsenis, 73, was driving when he was stopped and searched on Sept. 29.
Bratsenis was identified in a transcript of Caddle’s plea hearing as one of the men Caddle had hired to kill Galdieri. The other man, Bomani Africa, 61, named Bratsenis as his accomplice while pleading guilty to his role in the killing last week, a court transcript shows.
Mr. Sheridan declined further comment when contacted by email. A spokesman for the acting attorney general, Andrew Bruck, said the office had received Sheridan’s letter but declined further comment. Officials with the Somerset County prosecutor’s office did not return calls. Nor did lawyers for Bratsenis, who has not been charged in the case, or Africa.
There was another twist at Caddle’s plea hearing. His lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., told a federal judge that Caddle was a cooperating witness for the F.B.I. in an “important investigation.” Jacobs, a South Jersey defense lawyer whose high-profile clients have included accused gangsters like the reputed Philadelphia crime boss Joseph Merlino, declined to elaborate when reached by phone.
Expect a partly sunny day with temps in the mid-30s followed by a mostly cloudy evening.
Suspended today (Lunar New Year).
The latest Metro news
Will East Harlem get its long-delayed subway? Here is a look at where the project stands.
Cheslie Kryst, who was crowned Miss USA in 2019 while working as a lawyer, died in a fall from a Manhattan high-rise. The police are investigating her death as a suicide.
Two detectives in Bridgeport, Conn., were suspended “for lack of sensitivity” in their handling of the deaths of two Black women who died on the same day.
Two former top prosecutors are heading back to private practice. Audrey Strauss, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is rejoining the law firm Fried Frank. Cyrus Vance Jr., the former Manhattan district attorney, will be a partner at Baker McKenzie.
‘Just look at us now’: La Guardia’s new terminal opens
New Yorkers aren’t the only ones who have been known to put down La Guardia Airport. President Biden did, when he was vice president in 2014. His audience laughed — not a lot, but enough to prompt Biden to add, “I’m not joking.” He wasn’t, even if he did not mention the leaky ceilings, broken escalators and rodent sightings that were part of the La Guardia experience.
The old La Guardia experience, anyway. Last week its new main terminal opened. “President Biden, just look at us now,” said Adrienne Adams, the City Council speaker. The president is scheduled to visit New York this week. The White House has not said where he will land if he flies in.
I asked my colleague Patrick McGeehan, who covers transportation and infrastructure, to explain the airport’s $8 billion overhaul.
[‘From Worst to Best’: Gleaming New La Guardia Terminal Opens]
You write that the new terminal shares nothing but a name and a location with the old La Guardia. How different is it? What did the project involve?
As far as comfort and convenience for travelers, it’s a whole new world. The interior of the new main terminal is open and airy, with high ceilings and walls of glass that let in lots of natural light. Where people getting off planes used to arrive in a dreary chamber, now they can catch glimpses of the city all around.
The terminal wasn’t just renovated. It was replaced, at a cost of about $4 billion. The trick was that the airport, which was at full capacity before the pandemic, had to continue operating throughout construction.
What this overhaul won’t solve is the airport’s longstanding problem of frequent flight delays.
How did the pandemic affect this project?
At the start of the pandemic, work briefly stopped, putting the project behind schedule. Once it restarted, reduced passenger traffic allowed the builders to work faster and get back on schedule. In 2020, the number of travelers through La Guardia dropped by almost 75 percent.
Yet the $8 billion makeover at La Guardia is not complete. What remains to be done?
There is another big terminal under construction, at an estimated cost of $4 billion. It is owned by Delta Air Lines and will replace two terminals. The replacement, which will be called Terminal C, is scheduled to be completed in late spring.
Even before the ribbon-cutting last week, the word was out. Is it really true it was declared the best new airport building in the world?
Yes. I had to triple-check that because it seemed so unlikely. But a panel of judges selected by UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations, gave its top prize, the Prix Versailles, to La Guardia’s new Terminal B. It beat out the Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport and the New Plymouth Airport in New Zealand.
You mentioned the flight delays at La Guardia. Will its on-time performance improve?
Before the pandemic, La Guardia perennially had one of the worst records for on-time departures of any major airport in the country. In a typical year, only about three out of four flights left on time. That improved during the pandemic. Last year, more than 80 percent of La Guardia’s departures were on time. But that had more to do with the decline in air traffic than the changes at La Guardia, which is likely to be overtaxed again when travel rebounds.
What we’re reading
Visit Gallery Particulier in Brooklyn. Then get a piece of art or two on loan, Hyperallergic reports.
Forget the needle in a haystack: Find a lost item in a heap of garbage (at least 29 people tried during the second half of last year), The City reports.
What’s that song?
In fall 2014, I attended the “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” exhibition at the Asia Society and Museum.
It had been a number of years since there had been a major exhibition of Paik’s work in New York, and I was a longtime acolyte of the George Washington of video art.
As I made my way through the exhibition, I seemed to fall into step with a petite, well-dressed older woman.
At one point, we were sitting on a bench watching a video, and she asked me who was providing the music.
“It is either the Pet Shop Boys or the Thompson Twins,” I said. “I think it is the Thompson Twins.”
A few weeks later, I saw a photo of the woman I had been sitting with. It was Joan Didion.
— Michael Gulachok
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Olivia Parker and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].