DiGirolamo's friend pleads not guilty for evidence tampering

April 4, 2008 4:05:15 PM PDT
A man whose tip may have led authorities to the skeletal remains of a New Jersey woman missing since June has pleaded not guilty to an evidence tampering charge. John A. Russo Jr. of Staten Island was released on his own recognizance.

Russo is a friend of the man charged with killing Amy Giordano. The 27-year-old single mom vanished after shopping for groceries with her married lover and their toddler.

The lover, Rosario DiGirolamo, is being held on $1 million bail on a murder charge. His attorney has said DiGirolamo denies any involvement in the disappearance of Giordano.

In court Friday, prosecutors said Russo helped clean up Giordano's apartment after she was beaten to death and dismembered. They also said he met DiGirolamo at the Staten Island pond where skeletal remains were found inside a suitcase.

Russo's lawyer says information from his client led detectives to the pond.

Authorities are awaiting DNA results to identify the remains. Prosecutors say they are confident the neck-to-torso skeleton is Giordano because pictures of baby Michael DiGirolamo were found inside a nearby suitcase in the knee-deep pond.

During his 10-minute arraignment on Friday, Russo, 43, responded to the judge's questions but said nothing more.

Afterward, his lawyer, George Vomvolakis, said Russo didn't contact authorities about what he knew because "he was in fear for his own safety and his family's."

Vomvolakis said no specific threat was made, but that his client became worried about his own vulnerability after DiGirolamo confessed details of the crime to him.

DiGirolamo's lawyer, Jerome Ballarotto, declined to comment on claims made by Vomvolakis or Russo.

Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Meidt told the judge that Russo "helped clean up the mess" after DiGirolamo killed his mistress in the Hightstown apartment he rented for her and the child.

He said Russo met DiGirolamo at the pond on June 9 where the body was dumped.

Vomvolakis disputed the prosecution's account. He said Russo wasn't at the apartment after the murder. He says Russo led DiGirolamo to the pond, but left before the body was dumped.

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