- A New Jersey man decided to investigate after repeatedly finding feces on his mother’s grave.
- Michael Andrew Murphy told Insider that he managed to capture footage showing a man urinating in 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 Tappan Reformed Church Cemetery in Orangetown, New York, in April to mourn his mother, he was surprised to see a bag full of feces on her grave.
At first, he thought it might be from a dog walker. But when a second, and then a third appeared in the following weeks, he knew something “fishy” was going on.
Murphy said that when he reported the incidents to the Orangetown Police Department, he was asked if he had any idea who might have been leaving the bags of feces. “We said we didn’t know anyone who really hated 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 a trail camera helped solve the mystery
Murphy’s sister asked the cemetery, located about half a mile from the New Jersey border, if they could install closed-circuit cameras to help identify the man. They agreed, and in July, Murphy installed a camera he had purchased online.
“Sure enough, we started seeing images of someone coming, but they weren’t clear,” Murphy said. The photos were grainy, but he said he could almost make out the face and movements of a man unzipping his pants to urinate.
The face was familiar, he said. He looked like the man his mother, Linda Torello, who died in 2017, had divorced in 1974.
Murphy said he raised his suspicions with a cousin who informed him that his mother’s ex-husband had a job at a deli in the next town.
Murphy had an idea. He went to that deli and bought a small amount of cheese. The bag he got into, he said, matched exactly the ones that had been filled with feces and left in his mother’s grave.
“We started putting two and two together, we knew it was him,” Murphy said.
Determined to prove the man’s identity, Murphy began to more closely inspect the black-and-white footage from the trail camera. He realized the time stamps on the video showed the suspect visiting the grave between 6:14 and 6:18 am. every day. “He came religiously every morning,” she said.
They propped up an iPhone on another tombstone to take footage
Then, in the early morning of September 18, Murphy and his older sister decided to visit the cemetery shortly before 6 a.m. in an attempt to capture incriminating footage.
He set his iPhone on record and blew it up on another person’s gravestone. He said a prayer before hiding the phone with some sticks. He put it on flight mode to prevent an alert from ruining their plan.
Murphy returned to his car, where he and his sister anxiously awaited the man’s arrival. The man’s car rolled shortly after 6 a.m. In the vehicle, Murphy claims, was his mother’s ex-husband.
“As he walked to my mother’s grave, I have never felt so furious in my life,” he said.
Murphy had never met the man before and his mother had never mentioned him. According to Murphy, all she knew about him was that they had a “bad” divorce five years before he was born and that he was allegedly an absentee father to his older sister.
“We have this mother”
While they were waiting for him to leave the cemetery, Murphy said he and his sister were crying. They then clicked play on the video.
“We got this mother,” Murphy said excitedly as he watched 10 minutes of footage showing someone urinating on his mother’s grave.
Murphy and his sister immediately went to the police and showed them the footage. On that day, a charge of public urination was filed by the Orangetown Police Department against a 68-year-old man from Bergenfield, New Jersey.
In a statement to Insider, the police department said a suspect was located with Murphy’s help. 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 got into social media. I said, ‘This is it. I will humiliate this man, I will take him out to his own community””.
News of Murphy’s video, posted on Facebook, went viral. It was reported by Newsweek, Daily Mail and New York Post. “My goal was to do justice,” he said.
And although Murphy was able to identify the suspect, he has yet to figure out why someone would do such a thing.
“It’s confusing,” he said. “My mother was a good person.”