NEWARK, N.J. -- The decomposing body unearthed from a shallow grave in a southern New Jersey state forest Saturday night was identified yesterday as that of Sidney J. Reso, the Exxon executive kidnapped outside his home two months ago.
Authorities said that Mr. Reso had been shot in one arm and appeared to have died shortly after vanishing two months ago. They said the cause of death had not been officially determined, and they refused to speculate on whether the gunshot wound played a part.
Mr. Reso's body was found about 8 p.m. Saturday in a secluded corner of the Pine Barrens forest preserve,about 20 miles north of Atlantic City, N.J. It had been buried about 3 feet beneath dense underbrush.
The discovery ended an eight-week search that FBI officials yesterday described as the most intensive kidnapping investigation since the abduction of Patty Hearst in 1974. A search team of 40 law-enforcement officials was directed to the general vicinity of the grave Saturday morning by one of the suspects in the kidnapping, Irene J. Seale, an official close to the investigation said.
Morris County Prosecutor W. Michael Murphy said at a news conference yesterday that he plans to file a felony murder charge in the case today. He refused to say whether he would charge both Mrs. Seale and the other suspect in the case, her husband, Arthur, or just one of them. Mr. Seale, an ex-police officer, is a former Exxon security official.
Mr. Reso disappeared April 29 at about 7:30 a.m., moments after leaving his Morris Township, N.J., home for the 10-minute drive to work. His car, its engine idling, was found at the foot of his 250-foot driveway.
The Seales, both 45 and unemployed, were arrested about 1 a.m. June 19, after an aborted attempt to collect an $18.5 million ransom for Mr. Reso, believed to be the largest amount of its kind in U.S. history.
Michael Chertoff, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, declined to speculate at the news conference when and where Mr. Reso died. He also refused to discuss any negotiations or legal deals that might have prompted Mrs. Seale to tell authorities about the death and the body.
Mr. Reso had a heart attack three years ago. Gary Penrith, special agent in charge of the FBI's New Jersey office, said he understood that Mr. Reso was not required to take prescribed medicine for his condition but took a daily aspirin as a blood thinner.