MORRISTOWN - A jury in Morris County on Monday found an ex-Newark police officer guilty in the fatal shooting of his estranged wife during a bloody encounter at the Jefferson home the couple once shared in 2019, a decision that could send the 52-year-old to prison for the rest of his life.
A 12-member jury in the state Superior Court in Morristown also found John Formisano guilty of the attempted murder of Christie Solaro-Formisano's boyfriend, Timothy Simonson, after emerging from behind closed doors Monday afternoon following roughly eight hours of deliberations over two days. He was also found guilty of two weapons offenses, two endangering the welfare of a child offenses and one each of hindering and official misconduct.
Family members wept loudly as the jury's forewoman read the verdicts in a packed courtroom. Formisano did not show emotion in light of the jury's decision.
Formisano will remain in Morris County jail. A sentencing date was not immediately set.
Formisano, who was just months shy of retirement from the 4th Precinct at the Newark Police Department, never denied he fired his handgun, but levied a defense of diminished capacity, claiming he "blacked out" and suffered a mental defect that rendered him unable to intentionally shoot his wife, who he had filed divorce, and the man she was dating.
Jurors were told they could consider lesser charges against Formisano, including passion provocation manslaughter, if they found he had purposely and knowingly committed the crime, although had done so after being provoked and in the heat of the moment. They also had the option to consider a lesser offense of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury for Simonson's injuries. Simonson gave tense testimony during the trial, painting a heinous picture of the bloodshed that occurred inside the Mirror Place home on July 14, 2019.
Formisano left his shift at the Newark Police Department around 10:30 p.m. and headed to his former marital home to drop off a pair of glasses he said his young daughter left in his car. Prosecutors during closing arguments said his late-night visit was a "ruse" to lure Christie downstairs to intentionally kill her, citing evidence that he suspiciously parked his vehicle on another road and lingered outside for over a minute underneath the bedroom window before walking into the home.
Once inside, Formisano allegedly encountered Solaro-Formisano on the stairs wearing a white bathrobe with her hair and makeup done. A defense-commissioned clinical psychologist, Dr. Gerard Figurelli, opined on Sept. 28 Formisano went through a short but severe dissociative stress reaction when his wife pushed him and told him "he's here," a reference to Simonson being in their former bedroom. His mental state, which he was particularly vulnerable to due to undiagnosed major depressive disorder and PTSD, left him unable to know what he did was wrong, the doctor opined.
Prosecutors had the last say when they introduced Dr. Louis Schlesinger, a forensic psychologist, who gave a markedly different opinion of Formisano's mental state. The doctor opined Formisano showed signs of purposely trying to reach his intended goal by driving to the home and knowingly shooting Solaro-Formisano and Simonson with clear intent: prosecutors say the duo were shot 15 times and no "random" shots had been fired. He also pointed to Formisano's consciousness of guilt when he drove from the scene and hid evidence.
The trial began Sept. 21 with the burden to prove all elements in the case resting on prosecutors who introduced experts in the field of blood stain patterns, shooting and firearms operability. Simonson, the county medical examiner, detectives and officers who first encountered Formisano were also brought to the stand.
Jurors declined to consider a passion/provocation manslaughter charge instead of murder, which is a death caused purposely and knowingly that is committed in the heat of passion resulting from reasonable provocation, according to New Jersey's Code of Criminal Justice statutes. Jurors are advised that four factors distinguish the crime from murder: there was adequate provocation, the provocation actually impassioned the defendant, the defendant did not have a reasonable time to cool off between the provocation and the act which caused the death, and the defendant did not actually cool off before committing the act.
Jurors were to carefully analyze proofs in the case, such as where the acts occurred, what weapon was used, the location, number and nature of wounds inflicted and all that is done and said by the defendant preceding, connected with and immediately succeeding the events that led to the death.
Formisano did not testify at the trial.
Lori Comstock can be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.
This article originally appeared on New Jersey Herald: John Formisano, ex-Newark cop guilty of murder in Jefferson NJ