William M. Parente (July 20, 1949 – April
20, 2009) was a New York real estate attorney who came into the
spotlight following the murders of his wife and two daughters and his
suicide. At the time, he was also under investigation by the FBI for
an alleged Ponzi scheme.
Life and career
William Michael Parente was born in Bay Ridge,
Brooklyn to Willie and Roccolyn Parente; the elder Parente was a New
York State Police trooper. The younger William Parente grew up in Bay
Ridge as an only child, summering with his family in Long Beach.
Parente graduated Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School, assisted
by Anthony J. Russo, an uncle who paid his tuition to both
Parente married Betty Mazzarella in 1977. After becoming a member of
the New York bar, Parente joined a Wall Street law partnership, moving
into a private practice in 1988 after discovering his wife was
pregnant with their first child. After moving to Garden City, New
York, Parente and family returned frequently to his old Brooklyn
neighborhood for local delicacies, staying in touch with old friends,
visiting his mother, and remembering his childhood Halloweens by
returning to the same neighborhood with his two daughters each year
for trick or treat.
Late in his legal career, Parente was involved in
making what he called "bridge loans."
"He essentially worked as a bank," reported a friend, making
comparatively high-risk loans to projects pending permit approval.
In order to fund those loans, he allegedly drew on assets from
investments for which he had responsibility. When at least one
investor called asking for money back, Parente could neither
immediately return the funds, nor successfully explain his inability
to do so.
On April 20, 2009, the bodies of four people were
found by staff in room 1029 of the Sheraton hotel in Towson, Maryland.
Police were called. The bodies were identified as those of William
Parente, 59, of Garden City, Long Island, his wife Betty Mazzarella
Parente (born February 6, 1951), and their daughters Stephanie, 19,
and Catherine, 11. Stephanie was a student at Loyola College. The
cause of death was found to be asphyxiation. It was later found that
Parente had purchased a knife after killing his family.
Timeline of murders
Police believe that each of the murders took place at a different
time. Betty was believed to be the first victim, having been killed
some time during the day on April 19. Catherine was believed to have
been killed soon after. Both victims were laid on a bed in the room.
Stephanie, a speech-language pathology major, was believed to have
been killed later on Sunday after she had left the Loyola campus for a
visit from her family that had surprised her. Her roommates were also
surprised because she had been studying for a chemistry exam to be
taken the following day.
Around midnight, after the murders of Betty and their daughters,
Stephanie's roommate had called the room at the Sheraton to check on
her. Parente answered the phone, and replied that Stephanie had been
staying there. He was believed at the time by Stephanie's roommate,
who was unaware that Stephanie was already dead. That roommate later
reported that Parente sounded "odd" over the phone, and did not sound
like himself. Parente is believed to have killed himself some time on
Monday morning. Hotel staff noticed that the Parentes did not check
out on Monday, and there was concern from Loyola College about
Stephanie not showing up that day.
The motive was believed to be Parente's financial difficulties and a
pending investigation against him. It was learned by Baltimore County
Police while they were investigating the crime that Parente was also
being investigated by the FBI for a scheme in which investors were
potentially defrauded out of $20 million. In particular, a complaint
had been made against Parente for the alleged loss of $450,000.
According to the information learned in the financial investigation,
$245,000 in checks Parente had written to investors had bounced,
leading to complaints to the New York attorney general's office. Some
investors reported following his death that they had "lost millions."
The FBI investigation, which is considered to be separate from that of
the murders and suicide, is ongoing.
The case was one of two familicides in Maryland in less than a week.
The other one was that of Christopher Wood of Middletown, which had
occurred on April 16. The two events, having been in such close
chronological and geographic proximity, highlighted in the media the
topic of familicide and suicide resulting from economic troubles.
The funeral service for Willam Parente was separate from that for the
remaining members of his family.
Murder-suicide inquiry turns to father's financial dealings
allegations were raised against N.Y. man
By Nick Madigan and Gus G. Sentementes -
April 23, 2009
BAYSIDE, N.Y.— One hint that something might have
been amiss in William Parente's professional life came from a
nondescript law office in a shopping center in Queens. Attorney Bruce
Montague, uneasy about an investment he had made through Parente,
asked for his money back - but got, he claims, nearly a half-million
dollars in bounced checks.
Now, as detectives search for reasons that Parente
would kill his family and himself in a Towson hotel room, attention is
turning to the midtown Manhattan tax and estate lawyer's financial
"The FBI is looking into his financial dealings to
determine if there was any impropriety ... to determine whether he
committed any crimes, and if so, how many victims there are," James
Margolin, an FBI spokesman in New York, said in a brief interview
Allegations spelled out
At Montague's request, Steven B. Drelich, a law
firm partner, said in an interview that he wrote a letter to the New
York state attorney general's office that spelled out allegations of
A spokesman for the New York attorney general's
office, Alex Detrick, confirmed Wednesday that officials there had
received a fax of the letter a day earlier, after news of Parente's
death had broken, but he said that no investigation of Montague's
allegations had begun, nor had a decision been made on whether to
proceed with such a probe.
"We get thousands of complaints every day," Detrick
said. "We haven't launched anything on this one."
Since news of Parente's death and Montague's
allegations surfaced this week, another lawyer who works for Montague
said their firm had received several calls from people claiming they
had been defrauded by Parente. One person told of a $1.5 million loss,
while another spoke of a $500,000 loss, the lawyer, Joseph D. Levy,
said in an interview.
"He's upset, but he has the right perspective on
it," Levy said of his boss, Montague, who did not return messages
seeking comment. "It's nothing compared to what happened to the kids.
The law firm does well. We'll move on."
Parente and his wife, Betty, 58, and two daughters,
Stephanie, 19, and Catherine, 11, were found dead behind the locked
door of a Sheraton hotel room in Towson on Monday afternoon. Baltimore
County police officials said the women and the girl died from blunt
force trauma and asphyxiation, and Parente killed himself by cutting.
Parente's older daughter was a sophomore at Loyola
College. The Parentes left their home in Garden City, Long Island, on
April 15, and Baltimore County police detectives believe the man
killed his family Sunday.
Parente, who started practicing law in 1974 after
graduating from Brooklyn Law School, was a tax and estate attorney who
had a comfortable home in an upper-middle-class neighborhood on Long
Island. The family also owned a beachfront condominium in Westhampton,
property records show.
Working for investors
His investment activities remain murky. Drelich,
Montague's partner, said that Parente "put together investment
vehicles" by "pulling together money for investments with notes and
mortgages" on behalf of various investors.
Montague runs a firm specializing in civil and
personal injury litigation out of a two-story, red brick building in a
shopping center in Bayside. The firm shares the second floor with a
Weight Watchers office and a financial services firm.
The money that Montague lost was his own, and not
funds from the law firm, Drelich said.
In an interview with Newsday, Montague said that
Parente's investments yielded 10 percent to 15 percent returns. But in
the end, Montague claimed that he lost about $450,000.
Montague is devastated by news of the
murder-suicide, his associates said.
"We're at a loss because to kill the family is just
unforgivable," Drelich said.
The funds, Levy said, can be replaced. "It's
money," he said. "It's just money."
Nick Madigan reported from New York, and Gus G.
Sentementes reported from Baltimore.
Police describe methodical killings in hotel
By Julie Bykowicz - BaltimoreSun.com
April 23, 2009
The phone in the Parentes' 10th-floor hotel room
rang just before midnight. By then, a mother and two daughters staying
there had been beaten and asphyxiated by the man who answered the
phone. Not long after taking that call - from a college roommate of
his older daughter - the man used a knife to commit suicide.
On Wednesday, Baltimore County police sketched a
timeline for the murder-suicide of a Long Island family in a room at
the Sheraton hotel in Towson. Officials described methodical killings
over a period of hours Sunday, but a crime with no clearly defined
motive since the killer left no suicide note.
William Parente, 59, a New York lawyer, asphyxiated
his family members one by one, likely beginning with his wife, Betty,
58, a homemaker and charity fundraiser. Catherine, 11, was probably
killed soon afterward. Then came Stephanie, a 19-year-old sophomore
who abandoned her studies at the Loyola College campus late Sunday
afternoon to make the five-mile trip north to the hotel, police
Their bodies were laid out on a king-size bed.
William Parente's body was found in the bathroom. He killed himself
hours after his family, sometime early Monday morning. Police said
there were no obvious signs of a struggle or that anyone had been
drugged or restrained.
Taking notice of Stephanie Parente's absence from
classes Monday, Loyola officials alerted the Sheraton Baltimore North
hotel. Employees entered the locked room about 3 p.m. that day and
found the bodies.
Investigators found no note, Baltimore County
Police Chief James W. Johnson said, but they have learned about
William Parente's "questionable financial dealings." County police are
forwarding information, which Johnson would not describe, to the FBI's
New York office.
"We continue to interview family, friends and work
associates to determine the motive and the circumstances behind these
violent acts," Johnson said.
An FBI spokesman in New York said an investigation
into William Parente's financial dealings is under way. Also, a lawyer
in Queens has written to the New York state attorney general's office
alleging that he was defrauded by Parente.
Police said it was not unusual for the Parentes, a
Roman Catholic family with Italian roots in Brooklyn, to make the
215-mile drive from Garden City to Loyola, where Stephanie was a
speech pathology major. She was studious, friends said, and wanted to
be a dentist.
The family checked into the hotel, near Towson Town
Center mall, April 15; they were due to check out Monday morning.
Stephanie was surprised by her family's visit, said
friend and fellow sophomore Gabrielle Paige, 19. Loyola had just
resumed classes a day earlier, after a brief Easter break. Stephanie
was preparing for final exams, Paige said. And the Parentes were
scheduled to visit this Friday for an on-campus meeting about a
study-abroad program in England, for which Stephanie and Paige had
signed up, Paige said.
"None of it made sense," Paige said. "They just
called her and said they were here in Baltimore. It seemed like they
decided on a whim to come out here."
But once they were here, Stephanie's friends said,
the family's visit was ordinary. "Nothing was amiss as far as her
roommates could tell," said the Rev. Brian Linnane, Loyola's
president.The family had breakfast together Sunday near the campus, a
Loyola spokeswoman said, and Stephanie came back to her dorm room
afterward. Stephanie had a chemistry exam Monday and was planning to
study Sunday, friends said.
But she was nowhere to be found that night, though
her chemistry book lay open on her dorm-room desk. Friends were
concerned enough to call the hotel, Paige said.
One of Stephanie's roommates got through to the
room about midnight, and William Parente told her that Stephanie would
be staying the night with them.
The medical examiner listed the manner of death of
the wife and daughters as homicide, police said, and the cause for all
three as asphyxiation and blunt force trauma. Asphyxiation is the
obstruction of normal breathing, but police did not say whether the
three were strangled or smothered.
There were several objects in the room that could
have been used to inflict the trauma, said Johnson, the county police
chief, but investigators have not concluded what exactly William
The mother and youngest daughter were killed
"relatively close in time," said police spokesman Bill Toohey, though
Johnson said evidence showed the mother died first. It is unclear
whether the 11-year-old was in the room at the time.
Stephanie Parente was apparently killed later
Sunday, police said.
"We might never know the exact sequence of what
went on in that room," Toohey said.
William Parente's death was determined by the
medical examiner to be a suicide caused by cutting with a knife.
Police would not say where on his body he was cut.
On Long Island and on the Loyola campus, those who
knew the Parentes were grieving.
"This continues to be a very difficult time for the
entire campus community," said Courtney Jolley, a Loyola spokeswoman.
She said there would be a private campus vigil Thursday night, and
Loyola is continuing to provide counseling and support services.
Paige said Stephanie's four roommates were
especially close to her. She said some of the women are putting on a
brave face while others are not handling their friend's death as well.
"You would never see her without one of her
roommates," Paige said. "Their hearts are just broken."
Baltimore Sun reporter Stephen Kiehl contributed to
William Parente, 59, with his
wife Betty Mazzarella Parente, 58, and their daughters
19, and Catherine, 11.