- A New Jersey man decided to investigate after repeatedly finding feces on his mother’s grave.
- Michael Andrew Murphy told Insider he was able to capture footage showing a man urinating on the grave “every day.”
- Murphy identified the suspect as his mother’s ex. They had a “bad” divorce 48 years ago.
When Michael Andrew Murphy visited the Tappan Reformed Church Cemetery in Orangetown, New York, in April, to mourn his mother, he was surprised to see a deli bag filled with feces on her grave.
At first, he thought it might have been from a dog walker. But when a second, and then a third, showed up in the following weeks, he knew something “fishy” was going on.
Murphy said when he reported the incidents to the Orangetown Police Department, they asked him if he had any idea who might be leaving the bags of excrement. “We said we didn’t know anybody that really hates my mother in any way,” he told Insider during a phone interview.
But the 43-year-old New Jersey man was determined to find out who was behind the desecration of his mother’s resting place.
A deli bag and trail camera helped to solve the mystery
Murphy’s sister asked the cemetery, situated about half a mile from the New Jersey border, if they could install CCTV cameras to help identify the man. They agreed and, in July, Murphy installed a trail camera he had bought online.
“Sure enough, we started seeing images of somebody coming, but they weren’t clear,” Murphy said. The pictures were grainy, but he said he could just about make out the face and the motions of a man unzipping their pants to urinate.
The face was familiar, he said. It bore a resemblance to the man his mother, Linda Torello, who died in 2017, had divorced in 1974.
Murphy said he raised his suspicions to a cousin who informed him that his mother’s ex-husband had a job at a deli in the next town over.
Murphy had an idea. He went to that deli and bought a small amount of cheese. The bag it came in, he said, was an exact match of those that had been filled with excrement and left on his mother’s grave.
“We started putting two and two together, we knew it was him,” Murphy said.
Determined to prove the identity of the man, Murphy started inspecting the black-and-white footage from the trail camera more closely. He realized that timestamps on the footage showed that the suspect was visiting the grave between 6:14 and 6:18 a.m. every day. “He was coming religiously every morning,” he said.
They propped an iPhone on another gravestone to capture footage
Then, early in the morning on September 18, Murphy and his oldest sister decided to visit the graveyard a little before 6 a.m. in an attempt to capture incriminating footage.
He set his iPhone on record and popped it up against another person’s gravestone. He said a prayer before hiding the phone with some sticks. He put it on Airplane mode to prevent a notification from scuppering their plan.
Murphy returned to his car, where he and his sister anxiously awaited the man’s arrival. The man’s car rolled up a little after 6 a.m. In the vehicle, Murphy alleges, was his mother’s ex-husband.
“As he walked towards my mother’s grave, I’ve never felt so enraged in my life,” he said.
Murphy had never met the man before, and his mother had never mentioned him. According to Murphy, all he knew about him was that they had a “bad” divorce five years before he was born and that he was allegedly an absent father to his older sister.
‘We got this mother f’er’
While they waited for him to leave the graveyard, Murphy said he and his sister were crying. They then clicked play on the video.
“We got this mother f’er,” Murphy said, elated, while viewing 10 minutes of footage that showed someone urinating on his mother’s grave.
Murphy and his sister immediately went to the police and showed them the footage. That day, a charge of public urination was filed by Orangetown Police Department against a 68-year-old man from Bergenfield, New Jersey.
In a statement to Insider, the police department said that a suspect had been identified with help from Murphy. The statement added that the incident is part of an ongoing investigation by the police department’s detective bureau.
But Murphy thought the misdemeanor charge wasn’t harsh enough. “I said, ‘Public urination?’And that’s when I lost it,” Murphy explained. “So I took to social media. I said, ‘That’s it. I’m going to humiliate this man, I’m going to out him in his own community.'”
And although Murphy was able to identify the suspect, he’s yet to work out why anybody would do such a thing.
“It’s messed up,” he said. “My mother was a good person.”