The 74-year-old Chester Township man accused of murdering his wife had hit her with a bat and punched her multiple times, according to the criminal complaint against him.
Police say Leo Moran struck Charlotte Moran, also 74, multiple times at their Pleasant Hill Road home, causing her serious bodily injury that resulted in her death. He allegedly told police he believed she was conspiring against him, was going to leave him, and was unfaithful to him—but that he struck her in self defense after she began hitting him with the same bat.
Leo Moran is charged with murder, possession of a weapon (the bat) for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon. He's been lodged in the Morris County Correctional Facility in lieu of $1 million bail.
According to an affidavit signed by Chester Township Detective Anthony DaCunza, police were first alerted to the alleged attack by a 7:53 a.m. phone call from Paula Moran, Leo Moran's daughter-in-law.
Police arrived to find Charlotte Moran unresponsive and attempted life-saving efforts, but they were unsuccessful, the affidavit states. She was ultimately declared dead at 1:27 p.m.
Paula Moran told Morris County Prosecutor's Office detectives that she'd arrived at the home to find Leo Moran standing in the kitchen with a white T-Shirt, taking off a sweatshirt, wearing one sock. She said she searched the home and found Charlotte Moran outside a bedroom, unconscious and with an obvious head wound, according to the affidavit.
Authorities found Charlotte Moran was bruised and had a bloodied face, according to the affidavit. There was blood on the bed, and a wooden baseball bat on the bed appeared to have bloodstains as well, according to the affidavit.
Another Chester Township officer, Chris Cavanaugh, told DaCunza that Leo Moran appeared to have been involved in a struggle—he had cuts on his hands and scratches on his head—DaCunza said in the affidavit. Leo Moran's eye was bloodshot, as if he'd been poked in it, the affidavit said.
When Leo Moran was interviewed by police at the Chester Township police department, he acknowledged the struggle with his wife, according to the affidavit.
Leo Moran allegedly said that the night before, his son took him for a consultation or screening at the Denville Campus of the St. Clare's hospital system. It wasn't immediately clear from the affidavit what sort of screening.
Leo Moran allegedly told police that his son and wife were both angry with him for not being more forthright with the counselor.
"He claimed that his wife and son were conspiring against him," DaCunza states in the affidavit.
Leo Moran told police that the morning of the attack, he woke up, took his dog out for a walk, and returned to the home, according to the affidavit. But when he tried to kiss his wife, she refused, he reportedly said.
"She informed him that if he did not comply with the doctors, she was going to leave him," the affidavit states. "The suspect stated that he believed his wife had been unfaithful to him."
Leo Moran said Charlotte Moran then grabbed a baseball bat and attacked him, according to the affidavit. He said she hit him multiple times in the back, so he fought her off, and in doing so hit her in the head multiple times, according to the affidavit.
They fell to the floor, Leo Moran reportedly told police. That's when, he reportedly said, he grabbed the bat himself, and struck Charlotte Moran in the head with it.
"He then continued to strike her. He last saw her slumped against the door jam on the floor of the bedroom," the affidavit states.
But Leo Moran couldn't explain to police where the bat came from, why there was blood on the bed or why he didn't call 911—though he did call his daughter-in-law—according to the affidavit.
"When asked if the victim said anything during the fight, the suspect stated at one point she repeated 'please,' and at another point she stated words to the effect of let's go get some pills and will take them together," DaCunza wrote in the affidavit.
When police obtained a search warrant for the home and Leo Moran's vehicle, they couldn't find many indications of a struggle like the one Leo Moran described, DaCunca wrote.
They found a small pool of blood on the mattress where Leo Moran said his wife slept, he wrote. Leo Moran had a bite mark on his chest and a bite mark on his left thumb, as well as scratches on his face and what appeared to be blood on his scalp, according to the affidavit. But he had no marks on his back consistent with the attack he described, the affidavit states.
The altercation happened around 7:30 a.m., Leo Moran reportedly told officers.
DaCunza said at one point, Leo Moran changed details of his story—first saying he had been wearing the clothes he still had on when the altercation occurred, but later saying he'd since changed his shirt because it became soaked in sweat.
Neighbors say the Morans lived at the home for decades. Next-door neighbor Rob Freeman said Charlotte Moran always seemed nice and waved. He never saw anything he considered suspicious at the home.
Roberta Ferranti described the Morans as quiet, and the "nicest neighbors you could ever want."
“This is a tragic incident, and our heartfelt condolences are extended to the family members,” Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi said.