LONG ISLAND - Police in Suffolk County say that Marcello Molinari, 43, has been arrested and charged with murder for allegedly stabbing his wife - Melissa - twenty times in the back and torso, then wrapping her body in garbage bags, duct tape, towels, and Saran Wrap all before leaving her body in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens in Middle Island.
Marcello Molinari walked out of the Suffolk County Police's sixth precinct on Friday handcuffed without comment after pleading not guilty to the crime.
Melissa Molinari, a 38-year-old mother of four, was reported missing on December 2 but had not been seen since November 21. Police say they believe she was killed just a few days later.
"We're working under the theory that the house is the crime scene, her car was to transport her and she was placed in the Pine Barrens," said Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, Commanding Officer of the Suffolk County Police Department's homicide squad.
In their investigation, police found blood throughout the basement of the couple's Centereach home and in the van prosecutors allege Marcello used to transport Melissa.
"He claims she left the house after an argument. He claims she came back on November 23 to pack her clothes and left with a male in an unknown vehicle," Det. Lt. Beyrer said.
But findings from the investigation revealed that Marcello's phone's GPS data showed that he was at the Pine Barrens Rocky Point Park where Melissa's body was found just days after she was last seen.
The family cut a trip to Disney short after Marcello learned she was having an affair. According to prosecutors - browser history revealed searches for duct tape and rope along with non-extradition countries. It’s also alleged Marcello had plastic surgery on his ears and face and joined a dating website.
"This is a tragic case," Beyrer said. "All the lives that were destroyed in this - it’s just a terrible story."
The search for Melissa garnered the attention of Gabby Petito’s father, Joseph who after his daughter was murdered, vowed to help other families find loved ones. A family court proceeding will determine who will get custody of Melissa’s children.
Marcello’s attorney Christopher Gioe says his client who works in IT has never been arrested before.
"He’s maintaining his innocence," Gioe said.
Molinari faces a max of life in prison if convicted. The judge demanded him, and he’s due back in court on December 15.