Marital Rites © JJ Botta. All rights reserved.
They say both vultures and hyenas will rip the flesh from a corpse. The difference between the species can only be explained by an examination of the animal equivalent of personality. After gorging itself on a fresh kill, the hyena will defecate on the carcass so other scavengers can’t feed.
Marilyn never loved Paul anyway, and it was mutual. Their son Kevin adored Paul, but both parties agreed the boy would be better off in his mother’s custody. At age fourteen, Kevin was still too young to persuade the court otherwise, but had the law allowed it, he would have chosen to live with his father. Kevin was not a factor.
Divorce was not good enough for Paul. He opted for murder. He had no money to speak of, so he would lose little in the court procedure. Paul took divorce as an affront to his manhood and vowed Marilyn would never be with another lover. He was a calculating man, who never overlooked a detail. The perfect crime was well within his reach.
Marilyn filed in the spring of 2009, citing irreconcilable differences. She viewed Paul as lily livered, and ignored his threats during the fifteen-year marriage. Her main concern was alimony – She knew she would have to pay. She accumulated her assets during the marriage by operating a small marina on the Jersey shore. Paul, who had been a stay-at-home dad, wanted more than personal support – He sought her estate, something he could only snatch if Marilyn died before the termination of the marriage, since Marilyn had no other family but Paul and Kevin. Prudence and malice dictated he act quickly.
Marilyn hated her husband enough to be scathing in her own right. She was not above liquidating her spouse, and had the means to pull it off. She would wait until after the initial hearing to formulate her plan.
“May it please the Court,” Attorney Feinstein said. “It is true Mrs. Thompson has been the breadwinner so to speak, but the assets of the marital relationship were accumulated solely through her efforts and should not be subject to division here. She is willing to pay limited alimony for a period sufficient to allow Mr. Thompson to seek gainful employment. The parties have agreed the child of the marriage will remain in Mrs. Thompson’s custody, so her husband will, number one, have no extraordinary financial burden, and number two, will still have the underlying respective obligation of child support. My client is willing to waive child support in lieu of paying alimony.”
“Your Honor, may I be heard?” Attorney Gold replied on Paul’s behalf.
“Certainly counselor,” the judge said.
“Mr. Thompson has the right by law to enjoy life in the manner to which he has become accustomed over the past fifteen years. The decision to elect Mrs. Thompson as the working partner in this relationship was mutual, and my client should not be prejudiced in any way by that accord. He must receive full alimony benefits to the maximum allowed by law.”
“What about his child support obligation?” the judge said.
“Mr. Thompson is not working at the moment, because of the arrangement I discussed heretofore, your Honor, so he is not in a position at this time to provide such support. However, Mrs. Thompson is more than adequately prepared to make up the difference,” Gold said.
“I tend to agree,” the judge replied.
Both parties stood anxiously in the hallway of the courthouse while the Court decided their temporary financial fate.
“In the matter of Thompson v. Thompson, I find the assets in the name of Mrs. Thompson should remain untouched by this proceeding, as they were acquired solely through her efforts. However, Mr. Thompson should be kept in the manner to which he is accustomed, and until such time as he shall find gainful employment within his occupational abilities, he need not contribute to child support. Custody of the minor child shall remain with Mrs. Thompson. So ordered.”
The Thompsons left the courthouse seething. Marilyn had to pay alimony to the weasel she despised. Paul got no part of his wife’s assets, but instead would be “kept” by her, a status unacceptable to his ego. The final hearing was scheduled for six months forward – plenty of time to apply the finishing touches to malevolence.
Paul would visit Marilyn’s house, unnoticed in the darkness of night. He was well aware of the evidentiary power of the uniqueness of fingerprints, but the Thompson home, his former residence, would be riddled with old prints. The ridges of any new prints and the secretions from his sweat glands would be masked behind the pair of new gloves he purchased a month before the temporary hearing. Likewise, shoeprint identification and tire tread marks were to be expected in and around the former family abode.
With his final plans intact, Paul would remain flexible. He made nightly appearances to the apartments of at least four residents in his complex, and would do so during his favorite prime time movie slot, which he would record for later viewing, establishing his alibi. He needed only to bide his time, waiting for Kevin to stay over his friend’s house for the night, as he did once or twice each month.
On the night of the murder, Paul spoke to his son.
“Give me a call tonight, Kevin.”
“If I can, dad. I’m staying over at Mark’s tonight.”
“No problem,” Paul said. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Paul waited until 9:15 pm, and headed toward Marilyn’s. He was confident the police would discover her body when Kevin returned the next day. She would be hanging from a rafter. The official cause of death would be hypoxia, the deprivation of oxygen, leaving a blue complexion, distended lungs, and pinpoint burst blood vessels. He would make certain the coroner found his wife to have been alive before the hanging by the inflamed edges of the rope marks on her neck, forming an inverted V at the point of suspension, suggesting suicide.
At 9:35, Paul arrived at the house to find the door ajar. Hearing Marilyn talking strangely inside, he entered the dwelling and found her sitting on the living room floor, with an open bottle of whiskey, half empty. She was crying.
“I killed him!” she yelled. “It’s your fault. I killed my own son!”
“What are you saying”? he shouted.
“I killed Kevin. He wanted to live with you. We fought about it every night. I took him out on the boat to have a mother-son talk, but he wouldn’t listen. I didn’t mean to hurt him!”
“What did you do?” Paul said, excitedly.
“I hit him and he slipped. I swear I didn’t mean it.”
“You stupid bitch!”
Paul called Mark’s house, only to find Kevin never made it there. Marilyn stood up, picked up a vase and launched it at Paul.
“It’s your fault, you worthless pig!”
Paul ran out of the house in a panic to contact the police. The police found him soon enough as he attempted to enter his apartment.
“Paul Thompson? Come with us, sir.”
“Please, you have to help me. Come quickly. My wife killed our son. Please help me.”
“Is that Marilyn Thompson?” the officer said.
“Yes, of course,” Paul said. “She murdered my son.”
“We just came from her house,” the cop said. “She told us you took your son fishing two days ago without her permission and the boy has not returned.”
“What are you talking about?” Paul said.
“Come with us, sir. We’ll straighten everything out.”
As the police and Paul approached the front of Marilyn’s home, they knocked at the door and Marilyn answered.
“Where’s Kevin? Where’s my son?” the sober Marilyn asked. “What have you done with him?”
No one believed Paul, the man who never missed a detail. He would spend the remainder of his life in disbelief over his wife’s shrewdness. Two days after his sentencing, he hanged himself in his cell. The forensic tests confirmed his suicide. He would never learn that Marilyn disappeared a week thereafter. Her fishing boat was found abandoned a mile off Bellville.
On July 18, 2010, Attorney Feinstein sat in his office mulling over the paperwork. He considered the related documents, paying particularly close attention to the Will and all the Deeds, including the Title to the Jersey marina.
“I’ve gone over these documents for a week, and I had my colleagues double and triple check to confirm. As far as I can see, it’s all yours.”
“Thank you, Mr. Feinstein,” Kevin said. “I really wish my dad had fought for custody.”