At the murder trial of Jonathan Nyce on Monday, July 11, Nyce's attorney, Robin Lord, insisted that the prosecution had distorted the facts and had failed to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. In Lord's three-hour closing statement, she put the definition of reasonable doubt on the projection screen in back of her, while she paced up and down, suddenly changing her delivery from a shrill fortissimo to intimate pianissimo, and she listed 22 examples of what she characterized as "reasonable doubt."
Tom Meidt, who was co-prosecutor in this case with Doris Galuchie, could not have provided a greater contrast. In a quiet, professorial tone he invited the jurors to rely on their own common sense. His interpretation of Lord's attempt to portray the bad character of Nyce's wife is that her love affair with the gardener served to provide a motive. "Infidelity is not a motive for murder," insisted Meidt, who projected photos of the victim's bruises throughout his 80-minute statement. He characterized Lord's examples of reasonable doubt as gift boxes on a Christmas display - lavishly wrapped, but empty.
Nyce, the founder and former CEO of Epigenesis, a biotech company at Exit 8A, has said that the 2004 death of his wife, Michelle, was an accident that happened after she returned from a tryst with the family's former gardener. In a panic, he said, he tried to cover up her death by staging an automobile accident. He is accused of everything from murder to tampering with evidence, but Lord hoped to refute the premeditated murder charge.
Judge Bill Mathesius charged the jury before it began deliberations on Tuesday, July 12. The murder charge could bring a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A conviction on passion provocation, another charge, could mean 5 to 10 years in jail.
Excoriating the state police and detectives from Hopewell Township for failing to investigate Nyce's claim that the death was an accident, Lord claimed that they made a "rush to judgment," that Nyce had no intent to kill. "He had a gun right there. He invents drugs. He could have created a drug that could have gone undetected. He kills her in his pajamas and his socks. A coffee pot and two mugs were sitting on the table. This is not the conduct of a man who wanted to kill his wife." She described his attempts to clean up the evidence as "absolutely laughable."
Many of Lord's 22 points of "reasonable doubt" centered on technical discussions of how the wounds and the bruises were caused. "The most significant independent corroboration of his statement to the police, that he did not take her head and bash it, is that she fell on her forehead with no injury to her face," she claimed. "If the head is repeatedly smashed, how do you miss the nose?"
Punctuating her points with angry, percussive sighs, Lord referred to the Mount's Motel trysts as "comfort visits," and she referred to Michelle as not a "normal sweet woman."
But she reserved her greatest disdain for the credentials of the county medical examiner and gave two examples of the medical examiner's methods that cannot be found in textbooks. Noting that the county examiner had changed her testimony during the course of the trial, Lord said, "She is making it up as she goes along." Later Meidt would claim that the county examiner's testimony was not that different from what was offered by the pathologist presented by Lord.
"It's all speculation," said Lord. "There is no real evidence except the statement Jonathan Nyce gave, and not one stick of evidence proves it wrong. Medical science corroborates Jonathan Nyce's version. They want you to say it's a lie and guess at facts they cannot prove." She finished by playing the last two minutes of Nyce's confession tape. He buried his face in his hands and wiped his eyes as he heard himself say, "I loved my wife completely. If only she would stop and come back to her family, I told her, I would forgive her. I had not one bad thought in my heart."
Lord had claimed that the contents of a suitcase (no toiletries except toothbrush and paste, an empty package of thigh high stockings, rumpled shirts) revealed that it was used for motel trysts, not for running away. But Meidt insisted that Michelle Nyce had packed the suitcase when she threatened to leave that night.
Meidt noted inconsistencies (which he termed lies) in Nyce's statements about why he was awake, how long it took the garage door to close, why Michelle Nyce had worn snowboots but was found barefoot, why Jonathan Nyce's hands were scratched, and why the driver's seat was broken. He refuted Lord's castigation of prosecution witnesses, ranging from the toxicologist to the medical examiner, and made his own inferences as to the integrity of the defense witnesses.
Said Meidt: "The only reason to stage an accident is because you are trying to cover up something you've done. In this case he murdered Michelle, and he was trying to cover his tracks."
Meidt kept returning to his interpretation of Nyce's motive. "You have to think of the mindset of the defendant, an intelligent man, probably a very intelligent man, who thought he was losing his wife to a gardener."
He closed by reminding the jury of what the PSE&G worker had said when he first discovered the body. "He said it was like something out of a horror story. Well, ladies and gentleman, the last moments of Michelle's life were a horror story. Michelle is not here. I would ask you to do justice and speak on behalf of Michelle."
Able Laboratories, the generic drug company that had to recall all its products shortly after it moved from Perth Amboy to Cranbury, has raised the possibility of bankruptcy. In a statement posted on the website it says that the Food and Drug Administration has finished its inspection and has not ruled out the possibility of seeking relief under bankruptcy laws. The CEO had resigned, and now the interim CEO, Robert G. Mauro, has resigned. Nitin Kotak is the treasurer and vice president.
Able has also posted a copy of its letter asking the FDA for permission to reintroduce products under a court-supervised agreement. The recall of the more than 40 generic products began on May 19, triggering a decline in the price of the stock, which closed on Monday at $1.48. In April the stock had been selling at around $23. The nearly 20-year-old company has reportedly laid off from 50 to 75 percent of its 429 full-time employees.
Able Laboratories (ABRX), 1 Able Drive, Cranbury 08512-3609. 609-495-2800; fax, 609-495-2705. www.ablelabs.com
AnswerNet, based on Witherspoon Street, has moved its back office for accounting operations from 4250 Route 1 to Kendall Park. The company grew by 10 percent this year, thanks to the acquisition of two companies, MessagePro in Houston, a corporate hotline supplier and multi-family real-estate contact center provider, and Custom Telemarketing Services in Columbia, Maryland.
The six accounting employees moved into a company-owned building at 3088 Route 27, Suite 8, in Kendall Park. According to a spokesperson, the consolidation was caused, at least in part, by plans of New York Sports Club, which owns the Monmouth Junction building, to expand.
The firm was founded in 1992 as Pro Communications. Then CEO Gary Pudles and his partners, Bill and Barbara Robertshaw, did a "rollup" of the answering service business (U.S. 1, November 3, 1999). It is now billed as the world's largest telemessaging firm and a leading contact center outsourcer.
Though AnswerNet employs just 20 people at its Witherspoon Street headquarters, it has 54 centers in 22 states and Canada, more than 2,000 employees, and almost $60 million in revenues. Last year, as reported in Inc. Magazine, AnswerNet grew by 202.3 percent. The firm's subsidiaries include Signius Communications, Robertshaw Communications, Cerida, Source 1, and TelePartners Inc.
As a result of the Maryland acquisition, AnswerNet now markets services on www.telemarketing.com, a web destination for companies looking to contract for telemarketing services. "We are excited about our expanded customer bases in the areas of outbound service surveys, lead generation and appointment setting that comes from adding the Custom Telemarketing Services business to our family," says CEO Gary Pudles.
The firm offers all types of customer-relations management including customer service, inbound, E-bound and outbound telemarketing, fulfillment (both print and product), voice support for Internet sites, live web chat, hotlines and product recall services, lead generation and qualification, communications systems disaster back up, and retention programs.
AnswerNet Network, 345 Witherspoon Street, Princeton 08540. Gary A. Pudles, CEO. 609-921-7450; fax, 609-688-8709. www.answernet.com
Trash to Treasure In Cyberspace
Scott Feder may be in on the ground floor of the next big retailing trend. His new venture combines the most low-tech retailing imaginable - the yard sale - and shoots it to a whole new level through the power of advanced software and the wonders of cyberspace. A six-year veteran of eBay selling, who just happens to be a grammar school principal by day, Feder has just opened the first franchise of Auction Mojo, a store that sells individuals' trash and treasures on eBay.
His store, the first of four locations he plans to open within the year, is located in East Windsor. Its official opening took place on July 8, but some customers could not wait.
"The day before the grand opening we had four customers come in with 130 items," he says. "A man brought in 104 Norman Rockwell plates. A woman brought in five antiques, including a $400 doll and a Limoges plate. Another customer brought in a 1930s peignoir set with all the tags still attached. It's been busy ever since."
Feder, who runs the new store in partnership with his wife, Jennifer, had been looking for an enterprise to supplement his income as principal of West Windsor's Dutch Neck Elementary School, a post he has held for five years. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island (Class of 1990), he got the entrepreneurial itch from his father, Marcus Feder, who ran a business in the garment center in Manhattan, and a commitment to education from his mother, Marlene Feder, who has served as president of the East Windsor school board.
He sounds uncommonly confident as he describes Auction Mojo as a perfect fit. "I know eBay selling," he says. He started out dealing in his long-time "passion," baseball cards. He studied how the Internet had changed the decades-old pastime of trading the cards. "It raised the prices for some cards and lowered the prices of others," he says. The more common cards went for less than they would on the street when it became obvious to millions of potential buyers that there were lots more to be had. The rare cards, however, were more coveted when placed before legions of die-hard fans than they had been when they were sitting on a store shelf. "If you want a Mark McGuire rookie, you're now competing with everyone in the country," Feder points out.
Moving from passion to commodity, Feder began to sell DVDs on eBay. He looked for individuals who were selling their collections - generally 100 to 300 DVDs. He bought the collections, and then broke them up, selling the more popular DVDs for more money. It was a venture that took up about eight to ten hours of time each week and that netted him between $1,500 and $2,000 a month. His wife, whom he met while they were both teaching in South Brunswick, stays home with their two young daughters, and the venture provided the extra money to make that arrangement possible.
With his wife helping him, Feder found more and more ways to streamline the process. Along the way he earned a 99.8 percent approval rating from his 6,000 eBay customers.
But while Feder "really knows eBay," he was not sure that that knowledge would be enough to create a successful business. Nevertheless, he briefly considered going it alone, and also weighed the advantages of buying a franchise. Still a brand-new type of retail, franchises that offer to sell customers' stuff eBay are popping up. Two big ones, QuikDrop and iSoldit, have headquarters in California.
Feder decided that he needed some help with his new venture. He knew he didn't have all of the expertise he needed, and he also knew that, as a principal, he had limited time. But he decided not to go with an established eBay franchise. "I didn't want to deal with corporate in California," he says, "and I wanted to be part of a business that I could help to grow."
It was through the Internet, logically enough, that he found middle ground - help in selling on the Internet, but also a major role in building a new franchise. It was in cyberspace that he came across Robert Mooney, a Marlton-based software developer and Internet marketer.
"He has the pieces that I don't have," says Feder. The biggest piece by far is the software. "It's very costly," he says. "It does all the management." Mooney's operations management software is tied into eBay's system, and is licensed by eBay. It gives its users a number of advantages, says Feder, including the ability to upload dozens of photos of each piece of merchandise at no cost.
Feder's East Windsor store is the test store for the Auction Mojo franchise network. He drew upon his eBay experience in fitting out the 1,000-square-foot space. Up front is 400 square feet that looks like any other store, but the guts of the business is in back. There is a photography studio in which the objects are shot from every angle, a packing area, and a shipping department.
After a customer walks in with an antique anvil or period pie plate, Feder or a member of his staff, which will include five employees, asks questions and does research to determine its approximate worth. He anticipates that he will need the services of an outside appraiser to set the value of some objects, although everything has been relatively straightforward so far.
Descriptions are then written up, photos taken, and the object is listed. Auction Mojo answers any questions from potential buyers, accepts payment, and takes care of shipping - no matter what the size of the object. "I'm on my way to look at a 1993 Eldorado convertible now," says Feder, still a day away from his official opening. "I'll ship anything."
Auction Mojo accepts any object likely to sell for $25 or more, and takes a fee of 30 percent of the sale price up to the first $750 and 19 percent of anything above that. Feder thinks that he can get far more than a customer would be likely to reel in at a garage sale and somewhat more than the casual eBay seller would get on the site.
"At garage sales people want to spend $2 or $3 no matter what something is worth," he says. On eBay, however, there are people from around the globe specifically hunting for a pink Depression glass sugar bowl or a sign from a 1920s New Jersey dairy. When they spy the object of their desire, they are often ready to pay dearly to possess it.
Another drawback to garage sales is that those putting them on may have no idea that some of their discards, which may have been left in the attic by grandma years before, are valuable. Feder's customer with the Limoges plate, for example, had no idea that it was a Limoges, and therefore worth $50 to $100, rather than the $1 or $2 it would have fetched had she displayed it along with other tableware in her driveway.
His customers also gain, says Feder, because they are able to trade under the banner of his eBay 99.8 percent satisfaction rating. That, and the fact that he has a brick and mortar store and offers a guarantee, will give buyers the peace of mind to buy, and perhaps to pay a little more, he says.
eBay retailers like Feder are unlikely to do away with garage sales - how else could anyone hope to unload bushels of Easter baskets, Tupperware lids, and Sunoco drinking glasses? But his Auction Mojo could well be a pioneer in a whole new niche. eBay is a store that drew 1.4 billion buyers in 2004. That's quite an impressive platform on which to showcase a 1930s peignoir or a 1963 Eldorado - particularly if someone else is willing to do all the work involved in getting the proceeds to rain down from cyberspace.
Auction Mojo, 510 Route 130, East Windsor 08520, 609-371-0300.
Factiva, Route 1 at Ridge Road, Box 300, Princeton 08543-0300. Clare Hart, CEO. 609-627-2000; fax, 609-627-2310. www.factiva.com
Factiva has bought a company called Synapse, the Knowledge Link, to buttress its taxonomy operations. Taxonomy, the science of classifications, is used in Internet portal design to assign topic categories and subcategories.
According to a press release, Synapse adds deep domain expertise in industry verticals, science, technology, medicine and the arts, and its team includes more than 50 professional taxonomists, lexicographers, indexers and software developers.
With the acquisition Factiva gets a suite of software solutions for building and maintaining taxonomies, thesauri, and ontologies needed for search, categorization, and document management technologies.
Also, because of a recent agreement with Yahoo Inc., Factiva subscribers will be able to simultaneously search the Internet and retrieve select Factiva articles. Yahoo will receive Factiva's daily, "rolling" selection of content in commonly searched categories.
Any Yahoo user who searches under the Factiva brand will be able to view headlines and have the option to purchase the article or a subscription package. Yahoo users who are also Factiva subscribers can view the stories from the headline listing.
Trivent Chemical has been acquired by Alvo International of Sayreville. Trivent, headed by Frank DeMonico, was in the business of supplying specialty chemicals to the cosmetics industry, which is also Alvo's niche. The three-person lab was located at 4266 Route 1 in South Brunswick.
Alvo International/Trivent Chemical, 650 Jernee Mill Road, Sayreville 08872. 732-438-0995; fax, 732-438-1020.
Holt A. Murray Jr., 55, on July 2, of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). He was an engineer at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
Floyd J. Campbell, 81, on July 5. He owned a taxi and limousine service.
D. Scott "Spanky" Dilts, 51, on July 9. He was a roofer.
Earl W. Farley, 82, on July 9. He had owned a welding service and worked as a security guard at Merrill Lynch.