HERE'S THE LATEST: A Bergen County man who was recorded urinating on his ex-wife's grave received a summons and is being investigated further, police in Rockland County confirmed on Monday, Sept. 26.
Daily Voice broke the story Friday about the secret recording made of Dean Eichler, 68, desecrating the grave of Bergen County native Linda Torello.
Torello's son, Michael Andrew Murphy of Dumont, watched from a hiding place as his cellphone recorded the incident.
Murphy and his sister, Renee Eichler Barragan, said it's been going on for months. And not just that, either -- he's also left bags of feces, they said.
It's all over a grudge that both said Eicher has been holding against their mother for nearly 50 years.
Murphy set his cellphone on a nearby headstone to record the desecration around 6:15 a.m. this past Sunday, Sept. 18.
He hid behind a shed while Barragan sat in his car.
The video shows Eichler pulling into the Tappan Reformed Church Cemetery off Old Tappan Road in an SUV. His current wife was in the vehicle, Murphy said.
The video clearly shows Eichler approaching Torello’s grave while unzipping his fly. He looks around, then does his business.
Then he ambles back to the SUV.
“Believe me, I don't know how I made it through that. I never had so much rage in my life," Murphy said.
Police initially told him there wasn't much they could do, Murphy said.
However, after the appearance of the Daily Voice story, Orangetown police not only announced that Eichler had received a summons for urinating in public. They also said their detectives are investigating further with an eye toward possibly more serious charges.
Eicher and Torello divorced in 1974 after a brief marriage, according to Murphy and Barragan.
Linda Torello had became pregnant with Renee but denied responsibility, they explained. Eichler's family was good to Torello, however.
“They really stepped up,” Murphy said. “They loved our mom.”
His family also estranged Eicher and his second wife, the brother and sister said.
“His family chose my mother over his wife. He said they were all dead to him,” Murphy said. “That’s probably where the animosity comes in.”
Torello lived most of her life in Dumont and Northvale before moving to North Carolina in her mid-50s. The 66-year-old mother of seven and grandmother of 13 was due to become a great-grandmother when she died in August 2017.
Murphy said he stopped at his mom’s grave on the way home from a job in Rockland this past April and found a zip-locking deli bag with feces in it.
After a third discovery in July, the family began connecting dots. Eichler had been working in the deli section of the Stop & Shop in Tenafly, seven or so miles due south from the cemetery, they said. He'd have access to the zip-locking bags.
“No one in my family has had contact with him since 1976 or so,” Murphy said. “We’re not sure how he found my mother’s grave.”
Barragan spoke with cemetery officials, who she said gave permission to set up cameras.
"They have been amazing trying to help us," Barragan said.
The trail cameras captured a succession of images of the intruder showing up around the same time and committing the same violation four days in a row last week.
The pictures weren't crystal-clear, however.
So Murphy and Barragan went to the cemetery early last Sunday.
Using his cellphone, Murphy got a highly defined result. He shared the video on Facebook, where friends and supporters have sent prayers while praising him for his restraint.
Cemetery desecration is a crime in New York State if it causes damages in excess of $250. That could involve stealing from a plot, toppling, vandalizing or stealing a headstone, damaging flowers, vases or other personal items, or fully or partially digging up graves.
Related offenses include trespassing and criminal mischief. Fines and probation ordinarily follow convictions.
Murphy has met the threshold for damages after “paying a hazmat company to remove all her decorations that are soaked in urine and have the headstone properly cleaned and some of grass ripped up and replaced, plus the permits to let these companies enter the cemetery."
“It's been hard to sleep. I'll start to fall out and suddenly I wake up,” he said. “I don't care who you are. This has to make you sick. This happening to our mother….it’s horrible.”
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