A kidnaped Exxon executive died shortly after his abduction two months ago and was buried in a remote forest preserve in southern New Jersey, authorities said Sunday.
Investigators were led to Sidney J. Reso’s makeshift grave Saturday by Irene J. Seale, who with her husband, Arthur D. Seale, was charged Thursday with kidnaping, extortion and conspiracy.
One or both of them will be charged today with murder, said W. Michael Murphy, the Morris County prosecutor.
Authorities said the Seales had demanded an $18.5-million ransom for Reso’s return, believed to be the largest such demand in U.S. history.
Medical examiners on Sunday identified the body as Reso’s. The executive headed Exxon operations outside North America. Authorities said he died shortly after he was abducted on his way to his office April 29.
The New York Times today quoted authorities it didn’t name as saying Reso had been shot in one arm and appeared to have died not long after he was abducted. The authorities refused to speculate if the wound played a part in Reso’s death, the newspaper said.
A police dog helped agents pinpoint the burial site during a 12-hour search in Bass River State Park, which is part of the Pinelands, a forested area that sprawls over 1 million acres.
The body was unearthed in a tick-infested, brush-covered area that FBI agent Gary Penrith called “one of the worst places I’ve ever been.”
Reso, 57, died soon after he was abducted, Murphy said. But neither he nor U.S. Atty. Michael Chertoff would elaborate.
Reso had a heart attack three years ago and was taking medication to keep his cholesterol low, his wife, Patricia, has said.
“Whatever the evidence and the medical procedures show,” Chertoff said, “nobody can say that a man who died in captivity having been abducted from his family died of natural causes.”
Murphy said the Seales could be charged with felony murder--causing a death in the course of another felony--because Reso died while a kidnap victim.
Chertoff said investigators will also continue to try to identify any other individuals who may have been involved in the crime. A federal indictment Thursday said the Seales, both 45, had conspired with others to kidnap Reso.
Reso, the president of Exxon International, disappeared after leaving his home in Morris Township for his office in Florham Park. His empty car, its motor idling, was found at the end of his 200-foot driveway in the New York suburb.
The Seales were arrested June 19 and have been ordered held without bail.