breaks

‘Selfish, narcissistic’: Mount Olive woman resentenced to 20 years for shooting boyfriend

‘selfish,-narcissistic’:-mount-olive-woman-resentenced-to-20-years-for-shooting-boyfriend

A lot has changed for Virginia Vertetis since the March 3, 2014 shooting death of her boyfriend Patrick Gilhuley and the 2017 trial that followed, her lawyer told a judge before her resentencing on Thursday.

Vertetis, a former Wharton teacher who lived in Mount Olive, is no longer taking the heavy medications her attorney said led to mistakes in how her case proceeded, she switched lawyers, has overcome illness and has aged eight years. But above all, Vertetis, 59, said she has become a humble person who has embraced rehabilitation and accepted guilt for her actions.

But despite tutoring and advocating for fellow inmates while awaiting re-sentencing to a downgraded charge of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, Judge Stephen Taylor opined that once released from custody, there was a risk Vertetis could re-offend.

Previous story: Mt. Olive woman convicted of killing ex awaits new trial

The sentence

During an in-person-only hearing on Thursday in Morris County court, Taylor sentenced Vertetis to 20 years in prison, mandating she serve 85%, or roughly 17 years, before she is eligible for parole release. The sentence fell in the midrange of state guidelines for aggravated manslaughter and also aligned with prosecutors’ recommendations. Vertetis’ defense attorney, Susan McCoy, urged the judge to consider a sentence of fewer than 20 years.

The initial trial, which ended with a guilty verdict of murder and a 30-year sentence, was held in 2017. Vertetis appealed the decision and a new trial was scheduled based on improper instructions given to the jury on the state’s defense law. The charge was eventually downgraded and sent back to the courts as part of the new trial, but since Vertetis accepted the plea deal for 20 years last month, no further trials will be held.

Vertetis had an on-and-off relationship with Gilhuley, 52, a retired police officer for six years before she admitted she shot him to death in her Apollo Way home in Mount Olive.

Vertetis, a former math and science teacher at Marie V. Duffy Elementary School in Wharton, claimed she shot Gilhuley in self-defense after he beat and choked her in a drunken rage, court records show.

Related: Convicted killer’s teaching certificates revoked

On Thursday the judge said while he could give some consideration to the steps Vertetis has taken to rehabilitate, factors that were not considered at her first sentencing, they are invalid considering the factors that went against her.

“I don’t think it reduces the risk of future criminal behavior,” Taylor said. “The evidence showed that she was a jealous person, vindictive, perhaps even obsessive.”

Vertetis shot Gilhuley six times, several times while his back was to her, and she did not initially call 911. Taylor also found no credible evidence that Gilhuley assaulted Vertetis, despite her claims.

Taylor said he believed her motive was a combination of mental health issues, low esteem and a significant history of failed relationships. It was believed Gilhuley went to Vertetis’ house to break up with her.

Gilhuley family speaks

As she stood in the courtroom on Thursday with tears falling as her hands cupped her face, Vertetis apologized, and while most of what she said was incoherent, she said: “I want to share how ashamed I am to the Gilhuley family.”

But despite the sentiments, Gilhuley’s family — 10 of whom were present in the courtroom including his mother, two brothers and two daughters — said they will never forgive Vertetis.

Gilhuley’s brother Paul read a letter on behalf of his mother, Marilyn, who was present in court often crying throughout the nearly two-hour hearing.

“Virginia planned the murder, she’s shown no remorse or sympathy whatsoever,” he read. “She killed Patrick over her own jealousy: ‘If I can’t have him, nobody will’.”

Land preservation: Morris County considers buying, preserving 43 acres of land across four municipalities

“We continue to grieve, but it never gets any easier,” Gilhuley read, adding that holidays are a reminder of how much the family misses him.

Gilhuley’s older brother Peter said his brother’s death “has created a wound that will never, ever heal.”

“I feel the hurt in my mother’s voice every time that I speak with her. A mother should not have to bury her son,” he said. “We have so many great memories of Patrick, but remain saddened that the ability to create new memories has been stolen from us.”

Marilyn Gilhuley, mother of Patrick Gilhuley, is seen with Matthew Troiano, a former Morris assistant prosecutor, during the 2017 trial of Virginia Vertetis in April 2017. Marilyn Gilhuley was present during Vertetis' resentencing on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, but had her son read a letter on her behalf.

Marilyn Gilhuley, mother of Patrick Gilhuley, is seen with Matthew Troiano, a former Morris assistant prosecutor, during the 2017 trial of Virginia Vertetis in April 2017. Marilyn Gilhuley was present during Vertetis’ resentencing on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, but had her son read a letter on her behalf.

Peter Gilhuley called Vertetis’ acts “selfish and narcissistic” — words the judge later repeated, stating he believed them to be true.

Since Gilhuley’s death, his daughter, Jennifer, has married and his daughter Heather, who also spoke, gave birth to a daughter.

“I will never ever be able to forgive, and I will never ever be able to forget,” she said as she wept, “so much was taken from us that night.”

“She deserves the most time you can give her,” she told the judge. “In this case, she got lucky. She deserves not to live life outside (prison), no matter her age or what good she does in prison.”

Court: Morristown man accused of killing 3-year-old faces elevated charge, is offered plea deal

Taylor acknowledged the family’s grief, which he said has drawn to the surface each time a hearing has taken place over the years.

“If the pain and wounds had started to scab over, they, unfortunately, have been ripped off as a result of this proceeding,” he said.

As the hearing ended and the courtroom emptied, Vertetis pulled down her face mask and wept, her hands often rubbing at or holding her face.

Vertetis’ brother and his wife and her former classmate were present in court, but chose not to speak. Her mother and stepfather watched the hearing through a private video link from their home in Florida.

Lori Comstock can be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.

This article originally appeared on Morristown Daily Record: Mount Olive NJ shooting: Woman given 20 years in boyfriend death

Leave a Reply