On March 21, 1995,
Christopher Green, 29, a former postal worker deeply in debt, kills four
people and wounds one during a holdup at the Monclair, NJ post office.
He pleads guilty to murder.
In march 1995, Christopher Green, a former postal worker, returned to rob the tiny neighborhood
post office where he worked and executed four-- two workers who knew him
and two customers. A third customer was left in critical condition with
a bullet in his head.
Green said he held up the post office because he
owed back rent and was buried under "a mountain of debt."
Former Montclair Postal Worker Charged With
Killings in Robbery
By Clifford J. Levi - The New
March 23, 1995
town laborer was arrested today and charged with killing four men and
wounding one in a robbery at a small post office here where he once
worked. He was accused of forcing his victims, two of whom he knew, to
lie face down before shooting them at close range in an act of violence
that unnerved this suburban community.
The laborer, Christopher Green, told the police after
he was taken into custody at his apartment in nearby East Orange that he
had stolen more than $5,000 from the post office on Tuesday afternoon
because he needed money to pay his back rent, said the United States
Attorney in Newark, Faith S. Hochberg.
A phalanx of Federal and local law enforcement
agencies homed in on Mr. Green, a public works employee in Montclair,
after the police here received a tip from an acquaintance of his that he
might be involved in the killings, officials said. A computer search
indicated that Mr. Green was the registered owner of a stainless steel,
9-millimeter Taurus handgun; the caliber matched that of the weapon used
in the killings.
Neither Ms. Hochberg nor other senior law enforcement
officials could explain why Mr. Green felt that he needed to shoot the
two postal workers and three customers in the post office after he had
taken the money, though some speculated that he did not want to leave
"I think that you can determine something of his
mental state that after the killings he went and paid off his debts," Ms.
Hochberg said at a news conference in her office in Newark.
Mr. Green had no arrest record as an adult. He had
one minor offense as a juvenile that did not appear to foreshadow what
he is charged with doing, investigators said. His co-workers at the
town's Department of Public Works described Mr. Green as a conscientious
employee who came from a middle-class Montclair family that is well
respected in its neighborhood. [ Page B7. ]
Mr. Green had worked at post offices in Montclair as
a temporary employee from July 16, 1992, until April 25, 1993, officials
said. It was not immediately clear how much time he spent at the tiny
office where the crime was committed, at 48-50 Fairfield Street in a
typical suburban shopping area, or why he left the job.
"Christopher Green stated that he committed the
robbery because he had a mountain of debt," Ms. Hochberg said. "This was
not a case to our knowledge which involved a disgruntled postal worker."
When confronted at his apartment shortly before noon
today, Mr. Green did not try to flee. He was calm and soft-spoken, the
police said, and readily described how he had killed the two longtime
postal employees, Ernest Spruill, 56, and Stanley Scott Walensky, 42;
and the two customers, Robert Leslie, 38, and George Lomago, 59.
Both postal workers had recognized Mr. Green, and at
least one of them apparently called his name before the shots rang out,
the authorities said.
The only survivor of the shooting, David Grossman,
45, another customer, was listed in guarded but stable condition tonight
at University Hospital in Newark. He was shot twice in the face, and
apparently saved his life when he abruptly turned his head as Mr. Green
fired, the authorities said. He was able to communicate with
investigators on Tuesday night by wiggling his fingers and toes,
responses that helped them develop a description of the suspect and the
gun, and that corroborated the tip they received.
Mr. Grossman was also interviewed by the police this
After Mr. Green was arrested, he led investigators to
his refrigerator, under which he had concealed part of the money, and
gave them a garbage bag that was outside his apartment, said Thomas J.
Russo, chief of the Montclair police. He said that in the bag was a gym
bag containing his bloodied clothing from the night before, as well as
three postal money orders and 13 rounds of ammunition for his gun.
Officials recovered about $2,000 from the apartment.
Mr. Green had apparently used the rest of the money to pay the back rent
on his apartment on Tuesday night, the police said.
Mr. Green bought his handgun on March 13, 1993, from
a gun shop in New Jersey and followed proper procedures in obtaining it,
officials said. They said they did not know exactly why he decided to
On Tuesday, the police responded to the shootings
after receiving separate reports from a customer and a postal worker who
had gone to the post office to pick up a load of mail. An investigator
with the Essex County Prosecutor's office said the customer had called
ahead, asking either Mr. Spruill or Mr. Walensky to remain open a few
minutes past the normal closing time of 4 P.M. so she could bring in a
The worker agreed and told her to knock on the front
door when she arrived. But when she did, either Mr. Spruill or Mr.
Walensky rushed to the door and told her to go away, saying that there
was a plumbing problem in the building. As she walked away, the woman
heard shots, the investigator said.
"He ordered them to lie down on the ground and just
shot them," Ms. Hochberg said.
Mr. Green could face the death penalty if convicted
of murder charges in the case, which is under Federal jurisdiction
because it occurred in a post office. He was also charged with robbery
and using a gun in the commission of a crime, the authorities said.
"We are absolutely confident that we have the
individual," Ms. Hochberg said, "and that is confirmed by the rather
extensive confession he provided."
Mr. Green, wearing a light tan jacket, blue jeans,
blue slippers and wire frame glasses, was hunched over as he was led
into the Federal courthouse in Newark this afternoon for his arraignment.
His hands were cuffed behind his back, and he
fidgeted during the hearing. He spoke only once, answering "yes" when
Federal Magistrate Stanley R. Chesler asked if he wished to have a court-appointed
lawyer. He was held pending his bail hearing on Monday.
After Mr. Green's arrest, investigators from the
Essex County Prosecutor's office continued searching his apartment at
the Executive House in East Orange, about four miles south of Montclair,
where one-bedroom units rent for about $800 a month.
The police in Newark said they recovered a car
involved in the crime. Clifford J. Minor, the Essex County Prosecutor,
said that Mr. Green had taken Mr. Spruill's car keys and drove his
Chrysler New Yorker to Newark.
The neighborhood post office where the killings took
place is a satellite of the main Montclair station. The main office this
month put in bulletproof glass to protect its workers, but the smaller
office had no protective glass or surveillance cameras.
At the news conference this afternoon, Terence Reidy,
the town manager of Montclair, said the municipal government would hold
a memorial service for the victims on Sunday.
"The next step for us is to begin the healing process,"
Mr. Reidy said. "This incident took on a level of tragedy, largely
because we have such a tight-knit community."
Stunned Town Seeks Reason For Slayings
By Robert Hanley - The New York Times
March 24, 1995
Nothing in Christopher Green's background, his
acquaintances say, offered any hint that he would some day be arrested
for a horrible crime in his hometown.
He was a well-regarded electrician's helper for a
small electrical company in South Orange in the 1980's, and in the last
two years a dependable laborer for Montclair's Department of Public
Works at a salary of $26,600 a year. Last October he passed a statewide
police entrance exam and his name was placed on a waiting list for
departments with openings for patrolmen.
He came from a religious middle-class family and
apparently had a brief flirtation with Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam
in the early 1990's before returning to Montclair to work.
And while there are indications the 29-year-old Mr.
Green was under financial pressure, including a landlord-tenant dispute
in recent months, the problems seemed minor before the killings Tuesday
afternoon at a local post office branch.
"I don't understand how a boy this good goes bad,"
said Larry Hannah, owner of Larry's Auto Repair, down Valley Road from
Mr. Green's boyhood home. "He must have snapped."
They keep asking themselves: Could this really be the
same Christopher Green who is charged with invading a little branch post
office with a 9-millimeter handgun, killing two postal clerks he knew
well, shooting three customers, two fatally, and then fleeing with
Authorities say Mr. Green confessed to it all,
admitting that he committed the mass murders because he had a "mountain
of debt" and needed money to pay back rent for his studio apartment in a
fashionable high-rise, the Executive House, in nearby East Orange. They
say that while it seems to make no sense, he returned home after
carrying out the execution-style shootings, paid off $2,000 in back rent,
then hid the rest of the money under his refrigerator.
Though his sister Dawn, in a brief statement at the
family home here on Valley Road, said she knew nothing about any debt,
there are indications Mr. Green was having money trouble.
Records in New Jersey Superior Court in Newark show
Mr. Green had a running feud over rent with the landlord of Executive
House, Theodore Murnick of Newark. He was sued for nonpayment of one
month's rent -- $630 -- last October. On Feb. 6, Mr. Murnick filed
another suit for nonpayment. After the first suit, Mr. Green failed to
appear for a scheduled hearing in December and a default judgment was
entered against him, records show. However, he apparently was not
ordered evicted from his apartment.
What, if any, action grew out of the February suit
was unclear today because the docket file on the case could not be
located in the records room in Superior Court.
A secretary at Mr. Murnick's office said he was away
until Sunday and unable to comment on the case.
Many who know him here say they had no inkling that
Mr. Green, a soft-spoken and well-mannered person by all accounts, was
distraught or overwhelmed by deep financial trouble.
At City Hall, Montclair Township Manager Terence
Reidy said: "No one had a clue."
Employees at the public works garage, he said, were
stunned by both the magnitude of the crime and Mr. Green's confession to
"Everyone's second-guessing themselves," Mr. Reidy
said. "Why didn't we know, why didn't we see it, could we have done
Police officials here said the only specific item of
debt Mr. Green mentioned in his confession was the back rent at
Executive House. Otherwise, he talked in general terms about regular and
routine monthly bills. Officials say they have no information about any
judgments against Mr. Green or any pending actions by collection
By all accounts, his life style was not flamboyant.
"Nothing on gambling or narcotics," said one ranking
Montclair police official. "No wine, women or songs."
Tom Moloughney, the owner of a pizza parlor Mr. Green
visited almost daily for lunch, said: "He dressed nice, but not flashy
-- nice Dockers and a clean sweatshirt, but no gold or jewelry." The
only trips Mr. Green ever talked about were fishing excursions with his
brother to northern New England or the New Jersey Shore, Mr. Moloughney
The only cars Mr. Green ever owned were old ones,
according to New Jersey motor vehicle records. In 1987, a 1964
Oldsmobile was registered to him. In 1993, he began driving a 1980
Last November, Montclair's Municipal Court suspended
his driving license for nonpayment of four parking tickets, officials
said. The tickets were eventually paid, but Mr. Green apparently never
applied for reinstatement of his license, they said.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Moloughney said, Mr. Green
mentioned in passing that he might start looking for a part-time job to
earn extra cash. But the comment was casual, he said, and Mr. Green said
nothing about serious financial problems.
Years ago, Mr. Green's grandfather worked as a school
crossing guard on Valley Road, a main thoroughfare in town. His father,
Clyde, has worked as a custodian for years at an elite private school
here, the Montclair Kimberly Academy. Christopher Green, one of seven
children, attended local schools, played Little League baseball,
graduated from Immaculate Conception High School here and then trained
to become an electrician's helper at the Essex County Vocational School,
Mr. Reidy, the township manager, said.
In 1984, at age 18, he began working for Benjamin
Troncone, the owner of a small electrical company in South Orange. Mr.
Troncone's wife, Jean, said today that Mr. Green was an excellent worker
and that she and her husband thought of him as a son. Frequently, she
said, her husband took him on fishing trips to the Jersey Shore.
In 1991, Mrs. Troncone said, Mr. Green became active
with the Nation of Islam, married a member of the organization and left
her husband's company. She said she thought he lived in Maryland for
much of 1991 and then returned to Newark in early 1992 and took up his
old job. She said neither she nor her husband had asked about his
activities with the National of Islam and he volunteered nothing about
In July 1992 he was hired as a custodian by the Post
Office in Montclair. Mrs. Troncone said she wrote a "glowing" letter of
recommendation for him. Until he joined Montclair's Public Works
Department in April 1993 he helped clean both the main post office here
and the two-man branch he invaded Tuesday afternoon.
He was friendly with many postal workers here,
including the two clerks he is charged with killing.