A jury convicted a man Wednesday of killing a longtime family friend at an Ocean Township home they shared, burying her body in the basement and then setting fire to the home to cover his tracks, officials said.
Ronald J. Teschner, 52, is guilty of murder, felony murder, aggravated arson, desecration of human remains, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery, three counts of theft, resisting arrest, a drug offense and weapons-related offenses, according to a statement from the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office.
Shortly after 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2019, firefighters and other first responders rushed to a home on Wickapecko Drive in Ocean Township that was fully engulfed in flames, the office said. Once the flames were doused, investigators determined that two residents of the home were unaccounted for; Teschner and the homeowner, 65-year-old Jacqueline Terrulli.
Her car, a white Jeep Cherokee, was also missing from the property.
The next morning, the Jeep was found parked on a street in Paterson with Teschner sitting in the drivers seat with fentanyl and several things he stole from Terrulli including two shotguns, jewelry and bank cards, investigators said. He was arrested on weapons charges.
Prosecutors said Teschner confessed to the killing afterward to a friend, authorities said.
Jacqueline Terrulli pictures, provided by authorities.Photos provided by authorities
Prosecutors have said Teschner killed Terrulli after she caught him stealing from her, then lit her Wickapecko Drive home on fire using nail polish remover before fleeing in her vehicle.
He was charged two months after the massive fire and later indicted on murder, arson, burglary and several related crimes. Hes remained in the Monmouth County jail since his arrest, officials said.
Investigators looked for Terrullis remains for months by searching the home, combing the woods around her house and even nearby Deal Lake using repeated searches with K-9 cadaver dogs which are trained to detect decomposition.
However, on June 18, 2020, as demolition and site remediation work was being performed on the charred property, human remains that would later be identified as belonging to Terrulli were found wrapped in plastic and buried several feet underground, the office said. As a result of the fire, charred rubble had collapsed upon and covered the remains, initially concealing them from detection.
Authorities search for Jacqueline Terrulli, 65, in the the area surrounding her residence on Wickapecko Drive in Ocean Twp. She is missing after a fire.September 18, 2019 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media
Terrulli had been allowing Teschner to stay at her 6,000 square-foot residence while he was kicking a drug habit, but tensions between the two had been boiling in the days leading up to Terrullis disappearance, her family has said. He was accused of killing her while Terrullis mother and two siblings were away in Atlantic City.
This was a genuinely monstrous crime, hallmarked by callous brutality Jacqueline Terrulli welcomed the defendant into her home to live, and as a result of that charity, lost her life, Monmouth County First Assistant Prosecutor Michael J. Wojciechowski said in a statement. While this verdict cant bring her back, we hope it offers some sense of solace to her family and friends, knowing that justice has been served.
Teschner is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 7, 2023 and faces a term of up to life in prison without the possibility of parole, authorities said.
Teschner was previously sentenced in 2007 to 11 years in jail for breaking into his wifes house and attempting to harm her, and has a criminal history dating back further, according to records and media reports.
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Chris Sheldon may be reached at [email protected].