In July 2009, just a regular day turned into the last one for Marie Zoppi as she was found dead in her bedroom with a blanket over her and an alleged suicide note in her house. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Deadly Women: D.I.Y. Orphans’ takes us deeper into the elderly woman’s case as the authorities find out later that she was murdered and the perpetrator staged the scene to make it look like a suicide. If you wish to find out the gory details about the case, including the killer’s identity and their current whereabouts, let’s explore the same!
How Did Marie Zoppi Die?
Born on January 30, 1928, Marie Zoppi lived with her married daughter Tina Lunney, Tina’s husband Christopher Lunney, and the couple’s two children in Fairfield in Essex County, New Jersey. Marie, being a kind and supportive mother, used to financially support the needs of her daughter every now and then and lent her money when she asked for it. However, soon Marie seemingly realized that she was just enabling Tina’s dependency on her, so she decided to stop with the money train.
On the morning of July 22, 2009, 81-year-old Marie went about her business, but soon, a rather loved one allegedly caught her by surprise and strangled her to death with a necktie for selfish reasons. Upon realizing the gravity of their actions, the perpetrator decided to disguise the murder as a suicide.
The killer got rid of the necktie from her neck and wrote a suicide note on Marie’s behalf, which reportedly included something along the lines of, “Tell the kids I love them, you don’t need me.” When the authorities reached the crime scene after getting a call from Tina and Christopher Lunney, they found Marie lying dead and were given the suicide note for perusal. It didn’t take long for them to launch a deeper investigation regarding Marie Zoppi’s death.
Who Killed Marie Zoppi?
After searching for any kind of evidence in and around the possible crime scene, the police asked the couple some important questions pertaining to the tragic case, later that very same day. Soon, the authorities discovered that Tina had used her mother’s credit card to not just pay off her pending debts but also to book a vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. As Tina became one of the prime suspects in the eyes of the investigators, she decided to escape from the area a couple of days after her mother’s death, on July 24, 2009.
Tina reportedly hitchhiked and took a bus to the Bloomfield Shopping Center and then to Atlantic City. During her disappearance, her husband Christopher got worried and filed a missing persons report. However, three days later, she was seen walking around her home by one of her neighbors, who let the police know about it. Later, when Tina was taken to the police station under the suspicion of being involved in the murder of Marie Zoppi, she admitted she murdered her mother and had confessed about the same in five suicide notes that were found in her pocketbook.
According to Tina’s confession, on the morning of July 22, 2009, after around 14 years of having lived together, she was applying cream on Marie’s neck in the living room before she grabbed a necktie and strangled her to death with it. She then dragged the body to the bedroom and staged the entire crime scene as a suicide by placing a blanket over her mother’s cold body and writing a sentimental note.
As per the confession, when the stage was set, Tina asked her husband Christopher to come home and let him know that her mother had passed away and showed him the fake suicide note. After that, he dialed 911 to inform the authorities about the tragedy. Following her videotaped confession, Tina was indicted on the charge of first-degree murder of her mother, Marie Zoppi.
Where is Tina Lunney Now?
During the murder trial for Tina, her defense attorney Albert Kapin argued that the defendant was mentally ill when she confessed to the murder of her mother, adding that the details she talked about in her confession did not match the evidence at hand. On the other hand, another psychiatrist testified that Tina showed no signs or symptoms of psychosis. Furthermore, the prosecutors proclaimed that Tina had an extramarital affair with a Fairfield police officer at the time, blew away her husband’s $37,000 inheritance, drove the family into extreme financial debts, tried to dodge collection agencies, and inflicted bankruptcy over the family.
Highlighting all these wrongdoings of hers, they argued that money was the motive behind Tina’s actions. What complicated the case further was the confession of a psychiatrist who diagnosed Tina with Bipolar Disorder while she was in prison and gave her anti-psychotic medications. Moreover, no evidence of any cream was found on Marie’s neck nor that of the body getting dragged, which was what Tina claimed she did in her confession. There was evidence of the victim suffering from six broken ribs before dying, but Tina confessed that she only strangled her.
Accordingly, as part of her appeal, she claimed that the police coerced her during the interview and made her make a false confession. Despite these complications, on May 24, 2013, Tina was convicted at her trial. However, in an interview from prison with The Star-Ledger in July 2013, Tina overturned her confessions and maintained her innocence by saying that she could never hurt her mother as she was the only person who really cared about her.
On the flip side, she wrote a letter to her husband from the Essex County jail, in which she confessed to everything and talked about feeling suicidal after strangling her mother. So, taking all the evidence into account, on August 13, 2013, the 46-year-old Fairfield woman, Tina Lunney, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of her mother, Marie Zoppi. The convict is currently serving her sentence in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women at 30 County Road 513 in Clinton, New Jersey, and will be eligible for parole in July 2043, at the age of 75 years.
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