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New Orleans radio host charged in wife’s death

A popular New Orleans radio talk-show host was arrested Thursday and charged with killing his estranged wife, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A popular radio talk-show host was arrested Thursday and charged with killing his estranged wife, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee said.

Lee said Vince Marinello, 69, surrendered to authorities at about 3:15 p.m. CDT Thursday and was booked into the Jefferson Parish jail in Gretna on second-degree murder charges.

Marinello's wife, Mary Elizabeth Marinello, 45, was shot twice in the face on Aug. 31 in the parking lot of a building in the affluent Old Metairie neighborhood. She died the next day.

Authorities initially thought the shooting was an armed robbery gone bad. But Lee said examination of a security surveillance video tape convinced investigators that Mary Elizabeth Marinello was the victim of a planned attack.

Lee said Marinello disguised himself as a scruffy man and rode a bicycle to the parking lot of a building where he knew his wife was attending a regularly scheduled appointment.

After shooting his wife, he rode to an area behind an elementary school about three blocks away, Lee said. Witnesses reported seeing a bearded, scruffy man putting a bicycle into a white car that fit the description of Marinello's, Lee said.

Initially, Marinello had said he was in Jackson, Miss., at the time of the shooting, but Lee said his alibi unraveled. Witnesses came forward after the shooting and "things started to fall into place," Lee said.

Lee said a witness said Marinello recently visited a costume shop where he purchased a fake mustache, believed to have been used as part of his disguise. Marinello earlier said he did not own a .38-caliber gun similar to the one used by the shooter, but a witness saw Marinello purchase ammunition for that type of pistol, Lee said.

"All of this came together and gave us probable cause," Lee said.

Robbery theory discarded
A security camera captured the attack but investigators originally thought the footage was of little value because of sun glare. However, Lee said detectives using enhancement techniques were able to piece together a picture of what took place and tossed out a theory that the killing was the result of a botched robbery.

Late Wednesday night, authorities searched the longtime New Orleans broadcaster's Katrina-damaged house, the FEMA trailer he lived in and the home of a friend.

In the trailer, Lee said a handwritten checklist of the alleged plans for the attack — describing the bicycle, costume and gun — was found. "It was almost as good as a confession," Lee said.

Mary Elizabeth Marinello was going through a bitter divorce from her husband when she was attacked. The couple married Oct. 24, 2004 after knowing each other for about eight months.

‘A real whirlwind romance’
"That was a really strange thing," said Michael Diliberto, who did a handicapping television show with Vince Marinello from the Fair Grounds Race Track for 15 years. "It was a real whirlwind romance. He never even mentioned it. I finally asked him about it and he said, 'Yea, it had been just a quiet ceremony.'"

The marriage reportedly quickly disintegrated, according to Mary Elizabeth Marinello's family. She learned that her husband filed for divorce from his previous wife only eight days before their wedding, the family said. That divorce was not final by the time they said their vows, her relatives said.

In handwritten notes published in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Vince Marinello called his wife "cold, sarcastic, selfish, unfair and aggravating." In a note written less than a year after they were married he criticized her for not noticing a new shirt he wore.

"I never heard him say anything bad about Liz," Diliberto said. "He's always been a very private person. He doesn't really like people to know about his private life."

Hosted Katrina-related shows
Marinello, a longtime television sportscaster, most recently had been hosting talk shows on WWL radio dealing with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He has not appeared on the air since the shooting.

The New Orleans area has struggled with crime and violence since Katrina hit just over a year ago. The city's post-Katrina population dropped by about half to 220,000, yet New Orleans' 2006 murder toll hit 93 after a deadly Labor Day weekend. There has also been a spike in violence in the suburbs. Jefferson Parish had counted 40 murders by Tuesday, compared to 26 at the same time last year.

But Mary Elizabeth Marinello was gunned down in an affluent suburban area that had been largely crime free.