Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Zarinsky

Teddy, Pete & Bob

Schiffer copped a plea.

"He was an old man looking at some serious time," said Schiffer's co-counsel, Hassen Abdellah of Elizabeth, in an interview with Court TV's Crime Library. "He was very frail...very nervous. The years had really aged him. You could tell that he was still intimidated by Zarinsky."

Schiffer was staring at 15 years for felony murder, but talked it down to seven, out in three on good behavior, and all served in the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, Pa., which was closer to his family in Peckville.

He also took the investigators on a tour of the crime scene.

"Schiffer's memory was pretty good," said Pfeiffer. "Believe it or not...a lot of stuff at the (car) dealership was still intact after all these years. We could even see in one of the trees the place where they had dug out bullets."

The events, chronologically:

Schiffer and his family had been visiting Linden for the Thanksgiving holiday.

He and Zarinksy had gone for a drive in a 1951 Ford convertible.

Zarinsky showed Schiffer a gun and suggested that they rob the Miller Pontiac/Cadillac dealership for parts and cash. Schiffer was reluctant to comply, but was scared of his younger cousin, who had once thrown him down a flight of stairs.

Zarinsky bullied him into the deed.

Bernoskie, at the same time, had been walking his beat along St. George Avenue, shaking door handles, peering into windows. He walked in on the attempted burglary and traded bullets with Zarinsky, emptying his revolver. A wounded Bernoskie then staggered to a house two doors down, where he crawled into the kitchen and died.

Schiffer and Zarinsky, now bleeding from gunshot wounds, escaped back to their car, which was parked a few blocks away off West Milton Avenue. They headed towards Linden and cut through Rahway Park, where they dumped the gun into the Jackson Falls section of the Rahway River (divers would later search the river with metal detectors, and although they found a gun, ballistic tests proved negative).

It would be two years before Schiffer and Zarinky would cross paths again. Schiffer had just gotten married and Zarinsky threatened him, told him not to tell his new wife...or else.

Peter Sapsa, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to one count of federal mail fraud for bilking Zarinsky's trust fund. He faced five years in prison. Standing in front of U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson, Sapsa, as reported by Robert Coakley in the Spectator-Leader, "...promised to help build a possible case against Zarinsky for the murder of the Rahway police officer Charles Bernoskie and the unsolved disappearances of several young women from the late '60s to the mid-1970s."

Judith Sapsa was not charged.

Zarinsky was next in line.

First degree murder and felony murder charges were filed against him on December 9 in the death of Charles Bernoskie. He was looking at a life sentence, plus the 98 years he was already serving.

Bail was set at $1 million.

He was shipped from Trenton State Prison to the Union County Jail in Elizabeth where he was arraigned before Superior Court Judge John Triarsi and formally charged.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

His attorney, Joseph Benedict of New Brunswick, filed several motions with Triarsi, including one that claimed Zarinsky could not be tried for a murder that took place 42 years before, because the statute of limitations had expired five years after the crime.

As reported by Mary Ann Spoto of the Star-Ledger, Benedict also asked, "...Triarsi to move the trial to another county or to bring in jurors from outside Union County because of all the publicity surrounding the case..." He requested, "...a gag order to bar all attorneys, lawyers for witnesses, potential witnesses, Zarinsky's and Bernoskie's family members and former prosecutors from commenting on the case."And he also asked "...the judge to exclude from Zarinsky's trial any evidence about his previous convictions...," according to the Star-Ledger.

Triarsi refused to dismiss murder charges against Zarinsky nor would he have the case moved to another county.

Benedict did receive a gag order though and Triarsi agreed to impose limits on allegations against Zarinsky.

Triarsi then promptly removed himself from the bench after discovering that his son had worked for a short time on the case; as a summer intern with the Union County Prosecutor's Office.

The case was reassigned to Judge Walter Barisonek.

Judge Walter Barisonek
Judge Walter Barisonek

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