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The body of a high school senior was found naked, beaten and raped alongside the Garden State Parkway one fall afternoon in 1965.
Fifty years and a DNA breakthrough later, the murder of 18-year-old Mary Agnes Klinsky has been connected to perhaps the most infamous suspected serial killer in New Jersey history.
Robert Zarinsky would be prosecuted today for the murder and the rape – if he had not died in prison in 2008, at the age of 68, according to Christopher J. Gramiccioni, the Monmouth County Prosecutor.
“The dogged determination of our investigators and those at the New Jersey State Police has provided closure for the Klinsky family,” said the prosecutor. “After more than half a century, they know who killed their sister and the residents of Monmouth County have a clearer understanding of the murderous reach of one of our most notorious serial killers in our history.”
Klinsky, a senior at Raritan High School, was found near the southbound entrance of the Parkway, at Exit 116, at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, 1965. A ring from the school with the initial “MAK” on her finger quickly led to her identification.
She had died from multiple skull fractures from blunt-force trauma. The autopsy also revealed she was raped before she was killed, police said.
Detectives questioned numerous potential witnesses and suspects – but no arrest was ever made. Decades, then a half a century, passed.
But the county prosecutor’s office and the New Jersey State Police retested the remaining evidence. Using technology for amplifying DNA samples, they hit upon Zarinsky’s profile.
“Detectives submitted all of the evidence in this 50-year-old murder for state-of-the-art analysis by the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Sciences,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the NJSP. “I commend the hard work and determination of the State Police detectives, Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, and all of the assisting agencies that helped bring closure to the Klinsky family.”
The evidence at the roadside crime scene was biological and secured during the initial 1965 investigation, the authorities said. (They have not yet clarified the source of the DNA, or through which process it was amplified, for Forensic Magazine).
But the tests led to a follow-up investigation and further corroborating evidence establishing Zarinsky’s motive, and whereabouts at the time of the death of Klinsky. Zarinsky lived out the last half of his life in New Jersey prisons.
He was convicted in 1975 of the killing of 17-year-old Rosemary Calandriello of Atlantic Highlands in 1969. It was the first and only murder conviction made without the discovery of a body in New Jersey history.
Zarinsky was serving his life sentence for Calandriello’s killing when he was indicted for the 1968 murder of Jane Durrua, a 13-year-old girl from Keansburg. He died in South Woods State Prison while awaiting trial for that killing.
But Zarinsky’s legacy may extend much further. He was the subject of a 15-part series in The Star-Ledger in 2007 entitled “Deadly Secrets,” in which authorities told reporters Robin Gaby Fisher and Judith Lucas that Zarinsky was a suspect in a series of other unsolved deaths. They were mostly teenage girls: Linda Balabanow, a 17-year-old from Union found dead in 1969; and Joanne Delardo, 15, and Doreen Carlucci, 14, both of Woodbridge, and both found dead in 1974. But the list also included the 1958 shooting death of Rahway police officer Charles Bernoskie – a crime for which Zarinsky was acquitted in 2001.
Fisher told Forensic Magazine in a short interview that the Klinsky case had been on the authorities' radar as early as the 1970s - but they never entirely sure until the latest DNA results.
"Klinsky was always on our list of cases," Fisher said. "As I recall, they were less sure about Klinsky than any of the others because her body was disposed of on the side of the highway, which wasn't Zarinsky's style. However, part of his MO was beating these young girls, and often he beat them in the face, so it fit that way."