Sometime after 11 p.m. on July 14, Newark police officer Lt. John Formisano went to the house he had shared with his since-estranged wife to drop off a pair of glasses for one of their children, he would later tell authorities. He remembers realizing that a “male guest” might be present. He said he “blacked out.”
What came next, prosecutors say, was a rampage that ended with one woman dead, a man seriously wounded and a Jefferson Township, N.J., block traumatized by a killing on its doorstep.
Morris County prosecutors have accused Formisano, 49, of killing his wife, Christie Formisano, 37, and seriously wounding a man reported to be her boyfriend, whom authorities did not name.
But Formisano has yet to make his first court appearance, which under New Jersey law typically happens within two days of a defendant being taken to jail. The prosecutor’s office told The Washington Post on Thursday that he is in a hospital.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the unidentified male victim told police that Formisano had called the house after 11 p.m. on July 14 and that Christie had seen the flare of a flashlight outside the residence. The Formisanos’ two children, both minors, were in the house at the time.
Christie left her bedroom and locked the door behind her. Moments later, the male victim recalled, he heard Christie yell, “He’s got a gun,” and “Call 911.” Then, he said, he heard gunshots.
Formisano broke into the bedroom, the man alleged, firing numerous times. The victim was struck in the thigh, hand, arms and abdomen.
Christie fled the house and attempted to seek refuge at a neighbor’s, the affidavit said. But there was no answer at the neighbor’s door, and she couldn’t get inside.
A witness told police that she saw Formisano on the neighbor’s property and saw him fire a gun. When police arrived, they found Christie on the steps of the neighbor’s front porch, dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
Around 2 a.m., police caught up with Formisano about 30 miles away in a parking lot in Livingston, N.J., where the Daily Beast reports he had been living with his mother. A handgun was found in his car. He agreed to speak to police and recounted that he went to the house, realized another man was there and “blacked out” before firing his weapon numerous times at his wife and the man, the affidavit said.
The Formisanos were in the process of divorcing when the shooting occurred, according to the affidavit. Formisano had “been going through marital problems and he has been taking care of his mother who is battling serious health issues,” James Stewart Jr. of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police told NJ Advance Media. “But there was no indication that any violence was being contemplated.”
Prosecutors have charged Formisano with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm with the intent to use it unlawfully, and two counts of child endangerment. Newark police spokesman Mark Di Ionno confirmed that the 24-year veteran of the force was suspended without pay.
In ordinary circumstances, under New Jersey’s reformed bail laws, Formisano would have made his first court appearance 24 to 48 hours after being taken to jail. At this hearing, a judge would decide whether the defendant should be detained.
According to the Morris County prosecutor’s office, the night of the killing, Formisano was arrested and held by the Jefferson Township police. But he was taken to a hospital instead of jail.
Formisano’s attorney, Anthony J. Iacullo, said in a statement that his client is “undergoing medical and psychiatric treatment and no court date has been set for his first appearance.”
“The defense greatly appreciates the experienced medical doctors and personnel working to ensure that John receives the best care and treatment possible,” Iacullo continued. “We are hopeful that someday John may be able to be released and participate meaningfully in his defense of the pending charges. Until then, we will continue to prepare for that day.”
Peter DiGennaro, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, told The Post that a doctor could evaluate Formisano and determine whether he was fit to appear in court. In theory, prosecutors could file a motion to force Formisano to appear in court, but DiGennaro would not say whether this option was being considered.
As Formisano undergoes treatment, his former Jefferson Township neighborhood is left to reckon with the aftermath of the shooting.
According to the Daily Beast, frantic residents called 911 on July 14 as the violence unfolded.
One woman told a dispatcher that Christie was “dying in front of my house.”
“There’s somebody shot on my front steps,” another man told 911.
“On your front steps?” this dispatcher asked.
“I think she’s dying, or she’s dead, I didn’t even want to touch her,” the man said. “We heard some pops. I think it’s the woman from two doors down.”