An Atlantic County man whose daughter has been missing for more than 13 years is recovering from the shock that her alleged killer was arrested in Virginia on Friday.
“You have no idea what a feeling this is,” said Joseph Marto, of Somers Point, speaking on his cell phone as he drove home from a Virginia courthouse Wednesday afternoon. “This all happened so fast.”
For two years, the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident as a missing persons case, with the Virginia State Police joining the investigation in 1997.
On Wednesday, Marto recalled a smart, spirited woman, who skipped several grades in elementary school and loved to read and write.
“She always carried a book around with her, always writing something,” Marto said. “She would get lost crossing the street.”
Marto said authorities are resuming the search for her body this week.
Marto contacted Virginia’s Caroline County Commonwealth Attorney Anthony Spencer about the case in February. Spencer scheduled a meeting with him March 22.
“He actually got tears in his eyes,” Marto recalled. “He said, ‘How long has this man been out?’ I said, ‘I’ve been chasing him for 13 and a half years.’ He said, ‘Well, let’s get working on it.'”
Spencer presented the case to a special grand jury last week, which returned a murder indictment. Lawrence Gaudenzi also is charged with taking indecent liberties with children. Spencer would not be more specific about the latter charge.
Spencer said Lawrence Gaudenzi asked for a court-appointed attorney at his arraignment Wednesday. Attorneys Kathy Hancock and Russell Booker will represent Gaudenzi, Spencer said. He is being held without bond at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover County and a three-day jury trial is scheduled for Sept. 17, Spencer said. He declined to discuss specifics of the case.
Marto said seeing Lawrence Gaudenzi in court was a surreal experience.
“He wouldn’t look at me,” Marto said. “He has a crazed look.”
Marto called news of Lawrence Gaudenzi’s arrest “partial closure.” He wants his daughter’s body recovered.
“I want to bring my daughter back to New Jersey and give her a burial that’s normal,” Marto said.
Lawrence Gaudenzi’s Wednesday arraignment was also Marto’s birthday.
“The best thing I ever got in the world was when I was in court today,” Marto said.”He took from me 13 years and a beautiful daughter. He deprived us of all this time.”