Zarinsky died at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton on Friday, Nov. 28, 50 years to the day after he shot and killed Rahway Police Officer Charles Bernoskie.
Zarinsky, 68, was serving a life sentence for the 1969 murder of an Atlantic Highlands woman and was soon to be tried in the 1968 homicide of a 13-year-old girl who had been beaten, strangled and raped for another killing a year earlier. Authorities in three counties suspect Zarinsky in the murders of several other young women during the 1960s and 1970s.
His death marks the 50th anniversary of Bernoskie’s death, which left Elizabeth Bernoskie, now 70, a widow with five children and a sixth on the way.
On Friday, members of the Policeman’s Benevolent Association dedicated a memorial to Bernoskie at the site where he was killed. On Thanksgiving weekend in 1958, the Rahway policeman interrupted a robbery at the Miller Pontiac car dealership, where he was shot three times in the head and chest.
As the years became decades, Mrs. Bernoskie, who never remarried, put herself through nursing school and raised all six children on her own. She made sure they all went to college, watched them all get married, held their babies – 16 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Then one day out of the blue, the phone rang—and police told her new information had cracked the case. A tip received 40 years after the murder led police to arrest Ted Schiffer, 63, a Pennsylvania man who had never before been arrested or fingerprinted.
Schiffer’s fingerprint was a perfect match for the one discovered at the murder scene. Schiffer told police that on that rainy 1958 night, he needed some antifreeze and his cousin, Robert Zarinsky, bullied him into stealing it from Miller Pontiac.
In 1999, Zarinsky was indicted in the killing but acquitted two years later, despite the testimony of Schiffer and his own sister, who said that he had admitted the crime.
“He’s an awful person. He’s the devil on earth. He’s a murderer, a burglar, a cop killer,” said Judy Sapsa, Zarinsky’s sister who said she remembers that night when her brother and her cousin came home with gunshot wounds.
The Bernoskie family endured 42 years of waiting for justice but the jury failed to render a guilty verdict, dashing hopes that society would avenge this villainy. After winning a civil ‘wrongful death’ lawsuit against Zarinsky, the widow distributed money among her children only to face severe hardship when her legal victory was overturned on appeal by a judge who said Zarinsky did not get a fair trial.
“He led a torturous life and he’s met his ultimate end when final judgment will be rendered and there will be no appeal,” said Jim Ryan, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.
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