A New Jersey man accused of killing his wife, throwing her body in their pool and then driving to Applebee’s for food to set up his alibi has taken a plea deal in the case, prosecutors said.
Norman F. Long, 53, of Woolwich Township, pleaded guilty earlier this month to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, according to NJ.com. The plea deal struck with Gloucester County prosecutors requires Long to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.
Prosecutors are recommending a 15-year sentence, NJ.com reported. As part of the agreement, charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice have been dropped.
Long is scheduled for sentencing May 3.
Gloucester County prosecutors said at the time of Long’s arrest that the body of his wife, Michelle Long, 47, was pulled from the swimming pool at their home on June 17, 2017. Norman Long claimed that he had gone to pick up dinner and came home to find that his wife had apparently drowned in the pool.
“According to an investigator’s affidavit of probable cause, Norman Long and neighbors were at poolside when the investigator arrived at 8:35 p.m. (that night), performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Michelle Long,” a 2017 news release from prosecutors said. “Norman Long ‘became combative’ while CPR was being administered and had to be restrained, the neighbors said.”
A small dog was also found dead in the water.
Michelle Long’s autopsy showed that she had not drowned but instead died of blunt force trauma. Her death was ruled a homicide, prosecutors said.
Investigators spent just over six weeks investigating Michelle Long’s killing before arresting Norman Long on Aug. 1, 2017. He was charged with first-degree murder for “using physical force to cause blunt head and neck trauma” to his wife, the news release said.
“It was a violent attack by him,” Gloucester County prosecutor Sean Dalton said during Norman Long’s first court appearance in August, NBC10 in Philadelphia reported. “The medical examiner found that there was bruising on her hands, consistent with defensive wounds. There was a struggle.”
He was also charged with concealing evidence by “disposing (of) paper towels containing the blood of Michelle Long in the kitchen trashcan” and obstructing justice by throwing the blood-stained towels away and putting his wife’s body in the swimming pool, prosecutors said.
According to NJ.com, investigators believe Michelle Long may have been planning to leave her husband of 15 years. The last search she did on her computer, just minutes before her death, was a search for houses.
“This is what happened as a result of him finding out about that,” Dalton said during Long’s August appearance, NBC10 reported.
A timeline of the crime given in court last August alleged that Norman Long said his wife was on the computer when he left between 6:30 and 7 p.m. to pick up dinner at Applebee’s, NJ.com reported then. Prosecutors argued, however, that the timeline did not correspond with evidence.
Michelle Long’s search for homes ended at 6:11 p.m., prosecutors said.
Surveillance footage from a nearby business’s security camera showed Norman Long driving by a carwash and then heading back home before going to Applebee’s, where the restaurant’s own footage shows him inside from 7:15 to 7:37 p.m., NJ.com reported.
He against drove by the carwash headed for home at 7:47 p.m. The 911 call reporting Michelle Long’s death was received at 8:02 p.m.
Norman Long was taken to a state psychiatric hospital for evaluation following his Aug. 1 arrest because he was expressing suicidal thoughts, prosecutors said.
NBC10 reported last year that the defendant’s first court appearance was delayed because he had an emotional breakdown in the jail. Sources told the news station Long physically fought being removed from his cell and had to be forcibly taken to his hearing.
He was quiet once he was in the courtroom, the news station reported.
Michelle Long’s daughter, Brittany Maguire, said at the time of her stepfather’s arrest that her family was torn apart.
“She was definitely the best mom, and she did not deserve this at all,” Maguire said during a news conference attended by NJ.com reporters. “We are all broken without her.”
Since Michelle Long’s death, her mother and her daughters have partnered with a company called ROAR for Good, which makes a wearable personal safety device that, if activated by the touch of a button, shares the user’s location via text to a previously chosen list of contacts. It is designed to let people know if a loved one is in danger.
It can also emit a high-frequency alarm to scare away assailants, NJ.com reported.
The family sells the devices, inscribed with Long’s nickname, “Chel,” on a website they created called guardianangelchel.com.
“We wanted to direct our energy into something positive, meaningful, and honor my daughter's life and leave a lasting legacy for her," her mother, Susan Direso, told NJ.com last year. "Chel was my joy, my little girl, and to lose her in such a brutal way broke my heart forever. This mission to help at-risk victims gives us a purpose to turn our tragedy into a meaningful project.”