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State seeks felony murder charge in Ventnor double homicide

State seeks felony murder charge in Ventnor double homicide

Heather Barbera

Heather Barbera pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter in the death of her mother, Michelle Gordon, and first-degree murder in the death of Elaine Rosen, her grandmother.

MAYS LANDING — The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office is seeking additional charges against the Ventnor woman who allegedly bludgeoned her mother and grandmother to death before robbing them last summer.

During a case review Thursday afternoon in Atlantic County Superior Court, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Anne Crater said the state plans to re-present the case to a grand jury next week to include a felony murder charge — stemming from the robbery and murder charges already indicted — and would “also include particular modes of theft that are included in the robbery, as well as related charges.”

Felony murder is applied as a charge when someone dies during the commission of a crime.

Heather Barbera, 42, who has pleaded not guilty, sat in the courtroom shackled at the waist and ankles. She was originally indicted Oct. 17, 2018, on two counts of first-degree murder, third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and first-degree robbery by inflicting bodily injury.

Barbera was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 8. However, with a new indictment possible, Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. tentatively scheduled a case review for Oct. 31, followed by a Nov. 12 start date for a trial.

Conviction of a first-degree crime carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison.

Barbera’s attorney, Matthew Leonard, asked that an arraignment be scheduled as soon as possible if a new indictment is handed down.

Prosecutors allege Barbera beat Elaine Rosen, 87, and Rosen’s daughter, Michelle Gordon, 67, to death before robbing them July 8, 2018, inside a condo at the Vassar Square Arms luxury condominiums in Ventnor.

For both victims, the cause of death was multiple blunt-impact injuries and the manner of death was homicide, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said at the time.

Richard Rosen, of Brooklyn, New York, who found the bodies of his sister and mother, said Thursday he was “pleased” there may be more charges, even though it would push the trial date back.

Barbera was arrested by New York City police July 11, 2018, at the Midtown Manhattan Port Authority and was held in the Rose M. Singer women’s facility on Rikers Island before she was extradited to Atlantic County the following month.

Also at the hearing, Leonard told DeLury he might file a motion to suppress a statement Barbera allegedly made to police in New York after she was arrested.

Barbera confessed to killing Elaine Rosen and Gordon after her New York City arrest, according to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Leonard said some parts of the recorded statement are “unintelligible,” but he wanted to read the transcript because it “may be self-serving to the defense.”

Leonard has been in talks with Crater about a plea deal in the case, but when asked outside the courtroom about the details of the current offers, Leonard declined to comment.

Contact: 609-272-7241

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Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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