The 41-year-old daughter and granddaughter of two women beaten to death over the weekend in a Ventnor, N.J., high-rise was arrested Wednesday in New York City and charged with their slayings, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.
Heather Barbera of Ventnor was taken into custody after she was spotted by New York Police Department officers Wednesday afternoon at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Tyner said.
Barbera was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in the deaths of Elaine Rosen, 87, and Michelle Gordon, 67, whose bodies were found about 10:25 a.m. Sunday inside an eighth-floor unit at the Vassar Square Condominiums, 4800 Boardwalk. Police did not disclose a motive for the violent killings or say what was taken during the robbery.
Tyner said that autopsies Wednesday determined that the women died from multiple blunt force injuries.
Investigators learned that Barbera took a bus to New York City soon after killing the two women, Tyner said.
Barbera was still in custody in New York Wednesday night, awaiting extradition to New Jersey.
Rosen’s 50-year-old son, Richard, told the Atlantic City Press that he discovered the bodies of his mother and sister on the floor of the condo unit Sunday after he was unable to reach them that morning.
A resident at Vassar Square said someone called down from the unit Saturday night and requested that a taxi be called.
Cheryl Venezia, who owns the popular breakfast and lunch spot Annette’s on Dorset Avenue in Ventnor, said the three women were regulars, usually coming in for 1 p.m. lunches of grilled cheese and kippered salmon.
The two victims were in her restaurant on Saturday, she said, and Barbera had been in late last week. She said the two women did not give any indication of distress.
She described the victims as “very, very nice people,” but difficulties between Barbera and her mother were evident. They “fought constantly in the restaurant,” Venezia said.
“They were always at each other’s throats,” she added.
The three women usually stayed four days a week in Ventnor and spent the rest of the week in Brooklyn, where Gordon had a home, Venezia said.
“She was living with them,” Venezia said of Barbera.
She described Barbera as “bizarre” and said she would take a large pocketbook into the restaurant’s bathroom and steal rolls of toilet paper.
“You never think she would kill somebody,” Venezia added.
Vassar Square is usually filled with summer and year-round residents.
Though authorities said the deaths were an “isolated incident,” management has been exercising caution since the bodies were found, residents said.
Neighbors said the victims were not well-known in the building, and there were no obvious signs before the bodies were discovered that something violent happened.
Officials said the deaths were investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit and the Ventnor City Police Department.