Hello. 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 link with the first. We’ll also visit a new terminal at La Guardia, the airport New Yorkers love to hate.
The two New Jersey cases happened 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 disputed. They campaigned for the case to be reopened. Then, in 2017, a state medical examiner amended the death certificate, requalifying the manner of death as “undetermined.”
That’s where things were — publicly, at least — until last week, when new details emerged about the May 2014 case, which happened 50 miles from Jersey City.
This 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 unclear why he wanted Galdieri killed.
Mark Sheridan, the son of the victims in the September case, immediately saw a possible connection. He told the New Jersey Acting Attorney General and Somerset County District Attorney in a letter that “your offices have mocked my family’s suggestion that my parents’ death was anything other than a murder-suicide. “. He said the two bureaus had “openly mocked the idea of a murder-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 drew their attention to a knife found when police pulled over and searched a van in connection with a 2014 bank robbery in Connecticut.
He said New Jersey investigators repeatedly asked about a missing knife in the kitchen of his parents’ home. He suggested authorities obtain DNA evidence from the knife in the van to see if it was linked to their deaths.
Local Connecticut news reports at the time said the Sheridans’ kitchen knife was found in the van George Bratsenis, 73, was driving when he was stopped and searched on September 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 last week’s murder, according to a court transcript.
Mr Sheridan declined to comment further when contacted by email. A spokesman for the acting attorney general, Andrew Bruck, said the office received Sheridan’s letter but declined to comment further. Somerset County Attorney’s Office officials did not return calls. Nor are the lawyers for Bratsenis, who has not been charged in the case, or for Africa.
There was another twist at Caddle’s plea hearing. His attorney, Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., told a federal judge that Caddle was a cooperating witness for the FBI in an “important investigation.” Jacobs, a South Jersey defense attorney whose high-profile clients have included accused gangsters like notorious Philadelphia crime boss Joseph Merlino, declined to give details when reached by phone.
Expect a partly sunny day with temperatures in the mid-30s followed by a mostly cloudy evening.
Suspended today (Lunar New Year).
New Yorkers aren’t the only ones to have destroyed La Guardia Airport. President Biden made, when he was vice president in 2014. His audience laughed — not much, but enough to prompt Biden to add, “I’m not kidding.” He wasn’t, though he didn’t mention the leaky ceilings, broken escalators, and rodent sightings that were part of La Guardia’s experience.
La Guardia’s old experience, anyway. Last week, its new main terminal opened. “President Biden, look at us now,” said Adrienne Adams, the city council president. The president is due to travel to New York this week. The White House did not say where he would land if he flew.
I asked my colleague Patrick McGeehan, who covers transportation and infrastructure, to explain the $8 billion airport overhaul.
[‘From Worst to Best’: Gleaming New La Guardia Terminal Opens]
You write that the new terminal only shares a name and location with the old La Guardia. How is it different? What was the project about?
When it comes to comfort and convenience for travelers, it’s a whole new world. The interior of new main terminal is open and airy, with high ceilings and glass walls that let in lots of natural light. Where people stepping off planes used to arrive in a dreary bedroom, they can now see the city all around.
The terminal has not only been 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 has the pandemic affected this project?
At the onset of the pandemic, work briefly halted, putting the project on hold. Once it restarted, reduced passenger traffic allowed builders to work faster and get back on schedule. In 2020, the number of travelers passing through La Guardia fell by almost 75%.
Still, the $8 billion makeover at La Guardia isn’t over. The rest of the things to do?
There are another large 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 expected to be completed in late spring.
Even before last week’s grand opening, the word was out. Is it really true that it has been declared the best new airport in the world?
Yes. I had to check this because it seemed so unlikely. But a jury selected by UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations, gave its first prize, the Versailles Prize, at the new terminal B of La Guardia. It overtook Willy Brandt Airport in Berlin-Brandenburg and New Plymouth Airport in New Zealand.
You mentioned flight delays at La Guardia. Will his punctuality performance improve?
Before the pandemic, La Guardia still had one of the worst on-time departures records of any major airport in the country. In a typical year, only about three out of four flights departed on time. It got better during the pandemic. Last year, more than 80% of La Guardia departures were on time. But that had more to do with the drop in air traffic than with changes to La Guardia, which risks being overtaxed again when travel rebounds.
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In the fall of 2014, I attended the “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” exhibition at the Asia Society and Museum.
It had been several years since there had been a major exhibition of Paik’s work in New York, and I was a longtime sidekick to the George Washington of video art.