Broadcaster heads to trial in slaying of his wife

Published 12:20 am Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It’s a bizarre case in which police say a television and radio personality bought a disguise, had the alleged murder weapon checked out by a gun store and planned an alibi that included watching a football game with friends in Mississippi.

The elaborate plot to kill his wife went awry, investigators said, when they found a handwritten note in Vince Marinello’s trailer that they said was a checklist for the killing, including a note on getting rid of the gun and disguise.

Marinello, 71, goes on trial for second-degree murder on Monday in Lafayette, about 125 miles west of New Orleans. A state district judge in Jefferson Parish ruled the former television sportscaster and radio talk show host would be hurt by pretrial publicity in the New Orleans area.

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When Mary Elizabeth Marinello, 45, known as Liz, was shot twice in the face as she left a counseling session on Aug. 31, 2006, in a quiet suburban neighborhood, investigators at first suspected robbery — possibly by a homeless man. But surveillance video showed that the suspect lurked in the area, apparently targeting the woman, and the investigation shifted.

Jefferson Parish sheriff’s investigators said Marinello — who was arrested Sept. 7, 2006 — disguised himself as a scruffy man — complete with fake beard — and rode a bicycle to the parking lot of a building in suburban Metairie where his wife was attending a regularly scheduled appointment.

After allegedly shooting Liz Marinello, he rode the bike to an area behind an elementary school about three blocks away, according to Harry Lee, then Jefferson Parish sheriff. Witnesses reported seeing a bearded, unkempt man putting a bicycle into a white car that fit the description of Marinello’s, Lee said.

Initially, Marinello had said he was with friends watching a football game in Jackson, Miss., at the time of the shooting, but Lee said the alibi unraveled. Witnesses came forward after the shooting and “things started to fall into place,” Lee said.

A witness said Marinello had recently visited a costume shop where he purchased a fake mustache, believed used as part of his disguise. Marinello earlier said he did not own a .38-caliber gun similar to the one used by the shooter, but a witness saw Marinello purchase ammunition for that type of pistol, Lee said.

Lee also claimed Marinello took the gun to a gun shop to test-fire it.

The Marinellos met when Vince Marinello was hosting an Elvis impersonators contest at a New Orleans music club in 2004. Her family said he swept Liz off her feet. They married eight weeks after meeting on Oct. 24, 2004.

The relationship apparently fell apart just as rapidly as it began.

Less than a year after the marriage, Marinello sent his wife a handwritten note scolding her for not complimenting him on his appearance as much as their neighbors and friends did, not spending enough time with him and spending too much of his money.

In handwritten notes published in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, Marinello called his wife “cold, sarcastic, selfish, unfair and aggravating.” In a note written less than a year after they were married, he criticized her for not noticing a new shirt he wore.

Liz Marinello’s mother said her daughter also found out Marinello’s divorce was not finalized at the time she married him in 2004, and threatened to make that public.

On Aug. 7, 2005, Liz Marinello was booked on domestic abuse battery for allegedly scratching, punching and hitting her husband.

The couple had separated and were going through a bitter divorce when Liz Marinello was killed.

At the time, Vince Marinello was living next to his house in the lakefront neighborhood in a small trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The house had been flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

A longtime television sports reporter and anchor, Marinello also hosted several radio talk shows, originally on sports, but his weekday evening talk show on WWL radio focused on the city’s recovery from the hurricane. After his arrest, Marinello did not return to the station.