Carl Hamilton, Newark Post Online, May 14, 2020
U.S. Army veteran Paul Marino and his wife, Lidia, visited the grave of their son, Anthony, at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear almost every day for the past three years.
“It was like a regimen. Mom and Dad visited my brother’s grave every single day, without fail, unless there was inclement weather. They usually went there in the morning,” the couple’s son, Ray Marino, 60, said Wednesday.
Last week, however, that touching ritual turned tragic, when the Marinos were fatally shot just yards from Anthony’s grave in what appears to be a random act of violence.
Paul, 86, and Lidia, 85, were on the veterans cemetery grounds on the morning of May 8 to visit Anthony’s gravesite, as they had done perhaps 1,000 times before since their youngest son was laid to rest there in 2017.
At approximately 10:15 a.m. that day, a gunman randomly shot and killed the couple – sharply contrasting the tranquility of that cemetery.
Receiving the horrible news
The Marino couple’s daily ritual of visiting Anthony’s grave was so well-known among friends of Ray and his twin brother, Paul Jr., that, when news broke of the shootings, concerned loved ones reached out to alert the twin brothers.
A close friend called Ray, knowing that the twin brothers’ parents typically visited Anthony’s graveside in morning, which is when the reported shootings had occurred. Ray, in turn, called his parents’ phone, but they did not answer.
Shortly thereafter, another one of his close friends learned that Paul Sr. was one of the victims in the cemetery shootings through his wife, who works at Christiana Hospital in Delaware, where Paul Sr. had been taken. That close friend picked up Ray at work, after calling him to break the horrible news, and drove him to the hospital.
Employed by a company in Delaware, where he is a maintenance manager, Paul Jr. was at work when a coworker asked if he had heard the breaking news about shootings at a cemetery in that state.
“I asked which one and when he told me, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ I kept calling them, but I was getting no reply,” Paul Jr. said, adding, “I went into my office and started watching all of the news about it.”
Paul Jr. saw an aerial photo of the cemetery grounds, surrounded by scores of law enforcement officers and emergency vehicles, and it hit him hard.
“I could see my dad’s station wagon parked at the cemetery. Then I knew,” he said.
Then Paul Jr.’s wife called him, after she had been contacted by a Christiana Hospital spokesperson who reported that Paul Sr. had just arrived at the medical center, having suffered a gunshot wound.
“I asked, ‘Where’s my mom?,’” Paul Jr. said, recalling his reaction after arriving at the hospital to see his dad, prompting a nurse to gently answer, “She’s no longer with us.”
Lidia was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting last Friday, just two days before Mother’s Day. Her husband died from his gunshot wound at Christiana Hospital on Saturday.
Paul Jr. and Ray have so many questions about how and why their parents were gunned down, but, knowing that this was a random act of violence, they have resigned themselves to the fact that some answers will never come.
“I’ve been trying to figure all this out in my head, but there are some things we are just never going to know,” Ray said.
Delaware State Police officials identified Sheldon C. Francis, 29, of Middletown, Del., as the gunman who inexplicably ended the lives of Paul and Lidia Marino. But as of Thursday, investigators had not released a motive.
Francis died from an apparent gunshot wound near the scene of the shootings, but investigators have not said whether that fatal wound was self-inflicted or if it was one he had suffered during an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement officers.
Officers found Francis’ body in a wooded area near the cemetery at approximately 4 p.m. last Friday, some six hours after he had fired the deadly shots at Paul and Lidia Marino.
Paul Jr. and Ray cannot determine if their parents were able to visit Anthony’s grave one last time before they died.
“They were shot halfway between the cemetery entrance and Anthony’s burial plot, so we don’t know if they were coming or going,” Ray said.
The man who killed the twin brothers’ parents reportedly possessed a scoped rifle at the time but, according to information that DSP investigators provided the family, Francis apparently shot them with a handgun at relatively close range.
“He came up behind them, pulled out a handgun and did his thing. He shot our dad in the back of the head and then he shot our mom,” Ray outlined. “We don’t know if he shot our mom first in front of our dad or if he shot our dad first in front of our mom. We don’t even know if they saw him.”
Paul Jr. said he and his brother have not learned from DSP investigators where the bullet or bullets struck their mother.
The day after the shootings, Paul Jr. visited the cemetery.
“I just wanted to see where my parents got shot,” he explained, noting that a groundskeeper approached him, wanting to know why he was there. “When I told him my parents were the people who got shot, the groundskeeper said he knew my parents, that they talked to him every time they saw him at the cemetery. He was very upset by what happened.”
That groundskeeper relayed to Paul Jr. that he and coworkers had returned to the cemetery that morning after taking a break and they noticed the Marinos’ familiar station wagon, as well as an unfamiliar vehicle parked nearby.
“They heard ‘pop, pop, pop,’ and then they saw a man in a black hoodie running across the grass,” Paul Jr. said.
DSP officials gave Paul Jr. and Ray the watch their dad was wearing when he was shot. It was a gift from his company when he retired in 1994.
“We picked up the watch. The watch stopped at 10:15. It won’t move,” Ray said.