Off-duty New Jersey cop accused of killing wife in front of daughter

Neptune Township Police Sgt. Phillip Seidle is accused of chasing his ex-wife, Tamara Seidle, running her off the road in New Jersey and fatally shot her with his service weapon.

Story highlights

  • Neptune Township Police Sgt. Phillip Seidle ran his ex-wife off the road and fatally shot her, prosecutors say
  • The couple's 7-year-old daughter watched from the front seat of his car
  • Prosecutor: "He turned into a criminal and a murderer"

(CNN)Neptune Township Police Sgt. Phillip Seidle wore a loose-fitting, canary yellow jumpsuit in a New Jersey courtroom Wednesday -- his shaved head bowed, his hands cuffed at his waist.

Monmouth County First Assistant Prosecutor Marc LeMieux acknowledged Seidle's decades as a police officer. LeMieux had worked with him.
"But the fact of the matter is that when he was out on the street yesterday ... he was no longer a sergeant of the Neptune Township Police Department," LeMieux said. "He turned into a criminal and a murderer."
    On Tuesday morning -- about three weeks after a bitter custody dispute ended in divorce -- Seidle, 51, chased his ex-wife, Tamara Seidle, ran her off the road and fatally shot her with his service weapon, according to LeMieux. Their 7-year-old daughter watched from the front seat of his car.
    "This is the most serious crime a person can commit," Monmonth County Judge Honora O'Brien Kilgallen said Wednesday in refusing to lower his $2 million bail.
    Christine Rossi, Tamara Seidle's attorney, confirmed that a child custody matter -- the couple had nine children during a 24-year marriage -- culminated with the couple's divorce on May 27.
    "This was a horrific, heart-wrenching tragedy," Rossi said. "She was a wonderful, caring and appreciative client and clearly devoted to her children."
    The 2013 divorce complaint accused Seidle of "extreme cruelty" against his wife after she confronted him about an alleged "obsession with pornography and playing video games" that "appeared to be developing into addictions."
    The complaint included allegations of marital infidelity, failure to financially support his children and verbal, physical and emotional abuse. "In one instance, while the Plaintiff was pregnant, the Defendant held a loaded gun to her head, cocked the weapon in a threatening and intimidating fashion, with no regard to the torment he was causing the Plaintiff," according to the complaint.
    The complaint said Tamara Seidle, 51, was a "victim of largely unreported, undocumented (although some incidents did involve police intervention) domestic violence."
    While off duty on Tuesday, Seidle chased his ex-wife for several blocks on the streets of Asbury Park, New Jersey, according to LeMieux. Tamara Seidle's Volkswagen Jetta at one point crashed into a park car. He climbed out of his Honda Pilot, pulled out a .40-caliber Glock handgun and fired multiple shots at Tamara Seidle as she sat in her car, LeMieux said.
    Asbury Park police officers in the area for an unrelated auto accident heard the gunfire and convinced Seidle to let them take his daughter away from the scene, LeMieux said. The officers knew Seidle, LeMieux said.
    Phillip Seidle then pointed the weapon at his head before turning to his ex-wife's car and firing several more shots into the windshield.
    Asked why the officers did not use force to stop Seidle from firing again, LeMieux said: "That's under investigation at this point in time."
    After a brief stand-off, Seidle surrendered.
    Video of the shooting and its aftermath surfaced on social media.
    Seidle is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
    If convicted, Seidle faces a minimum of 30 years in a state prison without parole and a maximum sentence of life.
    A 22-year veteran, Seidle was hired as a patrolman in 1993 and held the rank of sergeant in the patrol division since his promotion in 2009. He also served in the U.S. Navy from March 1986 until November 1990.
    Seidle has been suspended without pay pending a termination hearing, according to Neptune Township Police Director Michael Bascom.
      In court, Seidle's lawyer, Edward Bertucio, argued for a reduced bail, saying his client had an "unblemished and outstanding reputation both as a police officer and citizen of Monmouth County."
      "Your honor," Bertucio said, "I realize this is an initial appearance and you did not ask for the entry of a plea, but if you had, we would plead absolutely, positively not guilty."