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‘A Whole Family Wiped Out’: Mom, Dad, 3 Sons Brutally Murdered And Then Torched To Cover Up The Crime
Dogged detective work and license plate reading technology combine to crack a savage family massacre.
The Morey brothers loved doing things outside together. In Fishkill, New York, a town 60 miles from Manhattan, where they lived with their mom and dad, Tina, 30, and Manuel “Tony,” 33, the boys — Tony Jr., 13, Adam, 10, and Ryan, 6 — had easy access to the great outdoors.
But on January 19, 2007, the siblings’ lives were cut short by “a crime of shocking carnage,” as the New York Daily News described it. Firefighters responding to a residential blaze found the boys’ bodies: two in an upstairs bedroom, one in the first-floor living room.
All three youths showed wounds and visible signs of trauma, still-shaken Fishkill FD firefighters told Oxygen's “Family Massacre." “It was not a normal fire,” said Ronald Arrigo, firefighter, Fishkill FD, adding that state police investigators were called to the scene.
A sweep of the home for the boys’ parents turned up Tina’s badly charred body. But where was Tony? As investigators searched, Tony’s burned-out Kia was found not far from the house.
“The car became a secondary crime scene,” said Terrence Dwyer, former investigator, Major Crimes Unit, NY State Police. “At that time we didn’t know Tony’s whereabouts.”
Tony had to be considered as a possible victim as well as a perpetrator. The medical examiner’s post-mortem on Tina provided the answer. Tony’s charred body was found with Tina’s. It wasn’t one body, it was two.
“They were burned so badly in the blaze, the body of Tony Morey had melded with his wife,” explained Holly Aguirre, a reporter with the New York Post.
All five were dead before the house caught fire, foxnews.com reported.
“That changed the nature of the investigation because now you’ve got a whole family wiped out,” said Dwyer.
Autopsies showed that Tony was shot once in the neck, Tina was shot in the chest and head, Tony Jr. and Adam were stabbed, and Brian suffered blunt force trauma to the head.
Because there were no signs for forced entry at the Morey home, investigators believed there was a good chance the victims knew who was behind the quintuple homicide. The savage murders left family and loved ones reeling and the Fishkill community in fear.
Investigators rallied their resources. In a lucky break, a patrol car outfitted with a mobile plate hunter that picks up every license plate in its field of vision was on the road near the Morey home around the time of the fire. But sorting through this data was a time-consuming process.
Teams conducting interviews with a number of witnesses came back with the same story: Tony had drug issues, including using and dealing narcotics. For investigators, that criminal element opened up new possible motives for murder. Were there drug debts? Bad blood?
One individual who helped Tony deal was considered as a person of interest, but was eliminated when investigators learned that he was incarcerated at the time of the murders.
Three days earlier he’d broken into a high school “for the thrill of it,” said Larry Hertz, former trial reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal. “He had the ultimate alibi.” He also told police that Tony kept a lockbox with drugs and cash stashed under his bed.
Interviews eventually led detectives to Tony’s friend Charles Gilleo. They stayed close after high school and rode ATVs and barbecued together.
When detectives interviewed Gilleo at his home not far from the crime scene, he had a fresh cut on his forehead. He said he’d gotten in while ATV-ing in the woods. That didn’t square since he also said he was wearing a helmet.
Investigators questioned his explanation and his alibi. The night of the murder, he claimed that he was home all night drinking with his buddy, Mark Serrano, a sanitation worker.
Narcotics investigators tracked the man who supplied Tony with cocaine and other drugs. He eventually admitted he had sold cocaine to Serrano and Gilleo in a fast-food restaurant parking lot on the night of the Morey murders. Gilleo had lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murders.
At the Hudson Valley Transportation Management Center, investigators searched to see if Serrano’s and Gilleo’s vehicles had been near the Morey house around the time of the murders using data from the mobile plate hunter. Serrano’s car had been there then.
“It was an aha moment,” said Ira Promisel, former HVTMC station commander.
As detectives built their case, they found that Tony and Gilleo had had a recent falling out. Arguments involved drugs, according to investigators.
But while police had circumstantial evidence, they lacked physical evidence connecting either suspect to the crime. The discovery of a knife, Tony’s lockbox, a gun, and a pair of bloodstained underwear at a lake near Serrano’s home changed that.
Police confirmed that the clothing belonged to Serrano. Most of the blood found on them was from the children. The gun was matched to the one used to shoot Tony and Tina. A search of Serrano’s home turned up seat covers from his car stashed under a sink that was stained with the Morey brothers’ blood.
Serrano was arrested. He admitted that he was with Gilleo on the night of the murders when they bought the drugs, but claimed that when they went to the Morey house he stayed in the car while Gilleo was inside.
Gilleo was arrested and his house was gone over with a fine-tooth comb. The search, however, turned up nothing of forensic value. Gilleo made no admissions when grilled by detectives.
But later in the investigation, Tony’s supplier, who’d been busted for a drug sale, reached out to police with information they needed.
He told them that during a phone call with Gilleo that took place before any news broke about the murders that the Morey family “was gone,” said Dwyer. “That was very odd information for Mr. Gilleo to have at that point in time.”
Serrano, then 30, was tried and convicted in 2007. Gilleo, then 33, was tried in 2008. Serrano testified against Gilleo. On the witness stand, Serrano testified that he was in the house with Gilleo around 11:35 p.m. He told the court that Gilleo shot Tony first and then turned the gun on Tina. The boys were then slaughtered one by one.
Robbery was reported as a motive.
“Maybe they wanted more drugs,” said Dwyer. “Maybe there were no drugs. Maybe there was an argument. I can't even begin to get inside their head as to what went wrong. But something went drastically wrong.”
Serrano was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. He’s behind bars at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY, and will be eligible for parole in 2056.
Gilleo was sentenced to five life terms. He’s serving time at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY.
For more on the case and others like it, watch “Family Massacre,” streaming now on Oxygen.com.