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State of New Jersey v. Edward Ronald Ates A/K/A Ron Waverly

May 17, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 07-09-1606, whose opinion is reported at __ N.J. Super. ___ (Law Div. 2012).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fisher, P.J.A.D.



Submitted April 17, 2012

Before Judges Fisher, Nugent and Carchman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by FISHER, P.J.A.D.

Defendant appeals from his conviction for the first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1), of his former son-in-law, Paul Duncsak, on August 23, 2006, for which defendant received a life sentence subject to a parole ineligibility period of more than sixty-three years. Defendant argues that the New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act (the Wiretap Act), N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-1 to -34, is unconstitutional because it permits the interception of telephone calls between individuals located outside New Jersey. He also argues that the trial judge imposed an inadequate remedy as a result of an invasion of the attorney-client privilege during the State's interception of defendant's telephone calls. We reject these and defendant's other arguments and affirm.


Evidence adduced at a twenty-three day trial revealed the following.

Defendant's daughter, Stacey, and Paul Duncsak were married in 1999 and had two children. They divorced in 2003.

Stacey did not fare well after the divorce. Child custody litigation resulted in Paul being named the parent of principal residence. At the time of Paul's murder, Stacey was unemployed and experiencing health and financial difficulties. On the other hand, Paul met Lori Adamo-Gervasi in 2005. Paul and Lori began dating in 2006 and became engaged with plans for a 2007 wedding in Cape May.

Paul and Lori had decided that she and her son would move into Paul's house in Ramsey on August 24, 2006, while they attempted to sell Lori's house in Wyckoff. In the meantime, from August 8 to the 23, Paul stayed at Lori's house. Paul would go to work from Lori's in the morning, stop at his house in Ramsey in the evening to check his e-mail and feed his parrot, and then return to Lori's for dinner and to spend the rest of the night. Because the Ramsey house was unoccupied, Paul did not leave the air conditioner on and always kept the doors locked.

Defendant lived in Port Lucie, Florida, with his wife, Dottie, in an RV on property owned by Evelyn Walker, the couple's other daughter. Evelyn lived on the same property in a house equipped with a computer and an internet connection, which defendant often utilized.

In early August 2006, defendant and Dottie began a trip north. On August 13, 2006, while in Wytheville, Virginia, they stopped at Walmart and purchased a TracFone cell phone and a card containing 120 minutes of service. The phone was activated on August 14, 2006. Records for the TracFone phone showed the first call was made on August 14, 2006, to the Pine Hill RV Campground in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. On the same day, "Ron Waverly"*fn1 of Vero Beach, Florida, paid cash to stay at the campground from August 16 to 18, 2006.

On August 14, 2006, after checking in at the campground, defendant called an Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Allentown, Pennsylvania and later that day rented a Dodge Durango, selecting an option that allowed them to drive into New Jersey. Defendant returned the rented Dodge Durango to the Allentown Enterprise facility on August 15, 2006, and requested a car with better mileage; the Durango had been driven 500 miles in one day.*fn2 As a replacement, defendant received a Hyundai Sonata, which was driven approximately 1,000 miles by the time it was returned on August 18, 2006.*fn3

Around 1:30 p.m. on August 23, 2006, Lori and a colleague, Helen Nikiforakis, went to Paul's house so Lori could show Helen where she would soon be living. Upon arriving, Helen noticed it was exceptionally warm inside and asked Lori to turn on the air conditioning; Lori said they would not be there long enough to justify it. Lori gave Helen a tour of the house that included a visit to the basement; Lori noticed that a furnace door, which was always left open for ventilation, was closed. This struck Lori as unusual. Lori then intended to show Helen a unique bathroom in the house but found the door was locked. This also seemed highly unusual to her. Lori and Helen left Paul's house around 2:30 p.m. While locking the door, Lori noticed a Burger King wrapper in the garbage outside that neither she, Paul, nor the children had placed there.

Around 6:20 p.m., Paul called Lori to tell her he was driving home to feed his parrot. Lori remained on the phone with Paul as he pulled into the driveway and exited his vehicle. Paul noticed the Burger King wrapper and mentioned to Lori that she must have left him a present; he also stated that Lori had left on the air conditioner. Suddenly, Paul shouted "no, oh no" then stopped speaking; Lori heard the bird scream and a loud thud. While still connected with Paul's cell phone, Lori tried calling the Ramsey house line from her house phone; no one answered. Lori's cell phone remained connected to Paul's as she dialed 9-1-1 from her house phone. While explaining to the 9-1-1 operator what had occurred, the line to Paul's cell phone went dead.

When police arrived at Paul's house, they found the doors were locked. A door was breached, and Paul's body was found in a pool of blood. Because there was no evidence of a forced entry, police were initially confused as to how someone could have entered until they found that a set of French doors leading from the master bedroom to the deck were unlocked.

At approximately 10:30 p.m. on August 23, 2006, Detective John Haviland went to Stacey's home. When he arrived, he observed a dark blue Ford Explorer in her driveway.*fn4 Stacey explained that the Explorer was a loaner she was using while her vehicle was being repaired. Detective Haviland told Stacey that Paul was dead but did not advise her of the manner or cause of death. Detective Haviland returned later that evening to obtain contact ...

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