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Christopher GREEN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Robbery at a small post office
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: March 21, 1995
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1965
Victims profile: Postal employees Ernest Spruill, 56, and Stanley Scott Walensky, 42; and the two customers, Robert Leslie, 38, and George Lomago, 59
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Monclair, New Jersey, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on September 20, 1995
 
 

 
 

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.


Christopher Green

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 York Times

March 23, 1995

A 29-year-old 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 witnesses.

"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 morning.

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 buy it.

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 package.

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 $5,000?

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 the authorities.

"Everyone's second-guessing themselves," Mr. Reidy said. "Why didn't we know, why didn't we see it, could we have done something?"

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 agencies.

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 said.

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 Oldsmobile.

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 it.

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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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