NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 30, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 09-09-1481.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Karen E. Truncale, Assistant Deputy, of counsel and on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney for respondent (Brian Uzdavinis, Deputy Attorney General, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti, St. John and Leone.
Defendant Frank P. Rendfrey appeals from his convictions for the murder of Angela Paranzino and other offenses. We affirm his convictions, and remand for resentencing.
Defendant was in a relationship with Paranzino. She and defendant were staying in her mother's first-floor apartment. On the evening of March 11, 2009, the mother returned home and found Paranzino with defendant. Even though Paranzino was under a doctor's care for diabetes and heroin use, and took suboxone to help her get off heroin, she looked like she was coming down from a "high." When her mother confronted her, Paranzino began yelling at defendant.
Upset, Paranzino eventually left and spent the night at a friend's house, where defendant repeatedly tried to contact her. About 2:50 p.m. the next day, she left for home. On the way, she sent a text message to another friend stating that she was tired of supporting defendant.
Around 3:30 p.m., Paranzino's upstairs neighbor saw defendant enter the first-floor apartment. When Paranzino arrived, she texted her friend that, even though she had kicked defendant out last night, she had walked in and found that he had come to the apartment in her absence and would not leave. Her friend told her to call the police.
After Paranzino entered the apartment, the neighbor heard increasingly loud arguments, with Paranzino repeatedly screaming "get the 'F' out." After ten or fifteen minutes of argument, the neighbor heard a loud banging, and then silence, followed by some dragging noises. Within a half-hour, he saw defendant leaving, pulling a black wheeled suitcase. The neighbor's brother went down and knocked on the apartment door, but there was no response.
Paranzino's mother returned to the apartment at about 6:30 p.m., and found Paranzino's bedroom door closed and locked. The mother knocked, got no response, and went to her own room. Later that evening, she became concerned because Paranzino's door was still closed and knocking produced no response. She removed the door from its hinges, and saw Paranzino's room had been ransacked. She found Paranzino's dead body wedged between the furniture. Paranzino's arm had a rubber band around it and a syringe sticking into it, with empty heroin packets on the floor.
Paranzino's mother also discovered that someone had taken Paranzino's black wheeled suitcase, cell phone, purse, and other small valuables. After her mother and the neighbor told police that defendant had been in the apartment, police filed complaints against him for burglary and theft.
On the night of March 12, defendant used Paranzino's cell phone to call Jennifer Henry, the mother of his one-year-old daughter. At that time, Henry was at a birthday party for another of defendant's children, which he had failed to attend. Defendant was frantic and begged Henry to pick him up. She agreed, and discovered him with a wheeled suitcase she had never seen before. Defendant then convinced her to rent him a room at a motel. The next day, defendant had Henry drive him to pick up his unemployment check from Paranzino's house, but made Henry park some distance away. Defendant eventually told Henry that he had strangled Paranzino, claiming it was in self-defense. He said he put a needle in her arm to make it look like an overdose, and locked her in her bedroom.
Investigators initially believed Paranzino had overdosed. When the medical examiner did an autopsy of Paranzino, however, he found the actual cause of death was manual strangulation, as evidenced by hemorrhaging blood vessels in her neck, eyes, and tongue. He also found signs of physical struggle. Based on the odd positioning of the syringe and the lack of indicia of actual injection, he believed the "drug overdose" was staged. Testing confirmed Paranzino had no illegal drugs in her bloodstream.
Police tried to locate defendant. They asked his parents and Henry to tell him that police wished to speak to him. Defendant called an investigator, but refused to give his phone number or address, and failed to come to the station. Defendant threatened Henry not to reveal what she knew.
On May 20, 2009, defendant got into an argument with Henry. After they parted, defendant called, texted, and threatened her. On May 21, Investigator James Mullin came to Henry's house. While he was there, defendant called, and Henry gave the phone to Mullin, who identified himself. Defendant hung up.
After Mullin left, defendant kept calling Henry. He was angry because she was talking to police. He became increasingly threatening. He accused her of being "more than friends" with his former friend Christian Lambros. Defendant told her that he had a gun and was on his way to New York to "take care of" Lambros. Defendant said he ...