Marie Moore: Is Theresa Feury’s Abuser Dead or Alive?

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Evil Lives Here: Trapped in a House of Torture’ features the horrifying and complex tale of the horrors inflicted by Marie Moore on three minors and her extent of manipulation that spanned over three years. Eventually, her abuse led to the death of one of the minor girls, Theresa Feury, and she became the first woman to receive the death sentence in New Jersey. She remained on death row for over four years before the conviction was overturned. If you’re interested in learning more about the case, here’s what we know.

Who Was Marie Moore?

In September 1981, the Moore household in Paterson, New Jersey, consisted of Marie Moore, 35, along with her daughter Tammy Moore, Tammy’s friend Harriet Bayne — both 12, and Mary Gardullo, a 50-year-old friend of Marie’s. During July or August 1981, three other children, Ricky Flores, 13, Theresa Feury, 12, and Luis Mantalvo, 13, began visiting the Moore household regularly. The children bonded closely with Marie over the summer, even calling her “Ma.” However, the amicable atmosphere underwent a drastic change in September 1981.

Marie fraudulently told the children that her former husband was the singer Billy Joel and that he would bring order to the household. She claimed Billy was involved with the mafia and issued instructions for the children’s behavior through Marie. The children were scared, believing Billy could hurt their families if they defied his orders. Marie gave the children tasks based on these fictitious instructions, and Ricky was assigned to oversee the household discipline.

Under Marie’s manipulation, Ricky began administering punishments — purportedly dictated by Billy — to the children for perceived failures in obeying directions. Marie’s tales of Billy’s existence were reinforced by phone calls, simulated inspections, and her occasional transformation into “Billy.” Mary Gardullo, who knew Marie from a prior incident involving a similar character, readily believed in Billy’s existence, further convincing the children. Harriet, Theresa, and Luis endured regular beatings as part of these punishments.

Court records showed Ricky also hit Marie under her instructions. The abuse escalated as Marie claimed to “become” Billy, instructing Ricky to administer punishments directly. These false narratives and threats controlled the children’s lives, preventing them from leaving. Ricky’s relationship with his mother deteriorated after Marie falsely posed as Ricky’s mother to school authorities. He moved permanently into Marie’s house, isolating himself from his family.

Marie persuaded Ricky that he needed to stay with her to help her overcome the drug addiction allegedly induced by Billy. Throughout this period, Marie maintained control over Ricky by manipulating him psychologically and physically, keeping him isolated from his family. Harriet eventually escaped from the household on November 27, 1981, leading to a police investigation and her admission to a diagnostic center. The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) started investigating the abuse claims, but Marie denied wrongdoing.

The situation became increasingly turbulent, beginning with Harriet’s flight on November 27, 1981, and ending with Mary Gardullo’s getaway on May 31, 1982. After Harriet’s escape, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) launched a probe. Despite this turmoil, Marie concealed Ricky during the investigators’ visits. She continued to fabricate narratives involving Billy, further manipulating Ricky’s compliance. The punishments inflicted on the remaining children — Mary and Theresa, intensified during this time.

Marie’s manipulation extended to encouraging a sexual relationship with Ricky. In January 1982, Moore, posing as Billy, manipulated Ricky into becoming sexually involved with her. The abuse escalated as Marie, acting as Billy, directed Ricky to administer increasingly severe punishments to Mary and Theresa. The victims endured distressing tortures, including thumbcuffing and physical abuse. Mary managed to escape the household on Memorial Day, May 31, 1982, seeking help from her family and eventually cooperating with the authorities.

Marie Moore is Presumingly Dead

She provided a detailed statement regarding the extent of the beatings and tortures she and others had suffered at Ricky’s hands, stating Marie’s involvement in the abuse. The detectives recognized the severity of Mary’s distress and facilitated her medical attention. They subsequently collected her testimony as evidence of the horrific abuse. Following Mary’s allegations against Ricky and their connection to Marie’s residence in Paterson, the police referred the case to the Passaic County DYFS and the Paterson Police Department’s Juvenile Division.

Marie denied knowledge of the abuse and claimed she wouldn’t harm her godchild, Theresa. However, during further investigation, Marie’s story changed as inconsistencies arose. DYFS assigned a social worker to the case, who interviewed Mary, Tammy, and eventually Marie. Mary and Tammy confirmed seeing Ricky at Marie’s residence. Concerned, the investigators visited Marie’s home on June 7. Marie allowed them in, and Theresa initially tried to escape but was thwarted.

During the questioning, Marie denied abuse claims. A subsequent medical examination of Theresa revealed severe injuries inconsistent with an accident, leading to suspicions of abuse. Marie was later asked to bring Theresa and Harriet to the police station for statements. Harriet revealed that Ricky, introduced by Marie as Billy, had beaten her. Theresa confirmed the abuse and revealed details about Marie’s involvement. Marie’s lies began to unravel, and her attempts to manipulate witnesses faltered.

Marie’s actions, including fabricating relationships with a fictional mafia figure and attempting to implicate Ricky, raised suspicions. She even contacted the police to report Ricky’s sexual abuse of Tammy and his role in Theresa’s murder. Upon discovering inconsistencies and evidence, the detectives intensified their probe. On December 22, 1983, Theresa’s body was found hidden in the walls of the residence. The coroner determined the child died of head injuries, which were caused by hitting her head to the bathtub she was chained to every night.

Marie was arrested on December 28, 1983, and charged with Theresa’s murder. The prosecution’s case against Marie rested heavily on Ricky’s testimony and the accounts of surviving victims – Luis, Harriet, and Mary. The victims’ consistent testimonies corroborated Ricky’s narrative for the most part and were supported by Marie’s conflicting statements aimed at misleading the investigators. Her manipulation of the victims and her creation of the persona “Billy” were crucial elements highlighted by the State to establish her control and manipulation.

Marie’s defense sought to demonstrate her legal insanity or present an alternative narrative in which Ricky was the controlling one in the household. During cross-examination, the defense lawyers aimed to prove that Ricky was a sadist, executing harsh physical beatings and enjoying abusing minor victims. The insanity defense involved expert testimony suggesting Marie showcased a Dissociative identity disorder caused by her history of sexual abuse, brain damage, and seizures.

The prosecutors countered with its experts claiming she was malingering and presented her parents to counter alleged claims of sexual abuse by her father. Marie was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in November 1984. However, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in October 1988. During her July 1989 retrial, the murder charge was dropped, and she was resentenced to 135 years on charges of eight counts of kidnapping and assault. She is presumed to have died due to the absence of her name in the prison roster.

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