By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
One evening last October, on a quiet block in Staten Island, a man named Eric Bellucci came out of the bedroom that he barricaded himself into on most nights and used a hunting knife to stab his parents, Marian and Arthur, until they bled to death.
The murders took place sometime between the evening of Tuesday, October 12when the family got sushi deliveredand the following afternoon, when Bellucci took his parents 2007 Honda Ridgeline to JFK and boarded an El Al flight to Tel Aviv. His younger sister, Vanessa, discovered their parents bodies when she showed up at the house later that night.
In the days that followed, media outlets mobbed the funeral of the Staten Island couple, while an international manhunt ensued. Bellucci, who is 30, was apprehended when he tried to use a credit card to buy a plane ticket to Beijing. A week after the murder, he was brought to Staten Island for arraignment.
With their parents dead and brother in custody, Vanessa, a 25-year-old law student, and her 28-year-old brother, Brian, a physician doing his residency, are whats left of the immediate family. Until now, neither sibling has spoken to the press. In a series of exclusive interviews with the Voice, they describe their brothers descent into mental illness and offer a portrait of a family coping with a problem spiraling out of control: Despite their attempts to get Bellucci institutionalized, his family was unable to convince a court to authorize the state to medicate him, even as the troubled mana diagnosed schizophrenicwas stockpiling weapons in their home.
On April 28, after spending six months on Rikers Island, Bellucci was found not mentally competent to stand trial on homicide charges (his attorney, Mark Fonte, did not respond to multiple requests to be interviewed for this article). As a result of that court decision, the State Office of Mental Health will place Bellucci in a psychiatric institution where he can be medicated by force if he poses a danger to himself or others. After a year, he will be periodically re-evaluated. If it is determined that he is able to understand the charges levied against him, he will stand trial.
If he never does comprehend what hes accused of, he will be committed for the rest of his life.
The first thing Eric Belluccis siblings remember that indicated something might be wrong were the unusual infatuations he developed while in law school.
In 2003, Bellucci had enrolled in Brooklyn Law School, but he instead became obsessed with documentary filmmaking in a way that seemed odd and a little troubling. With a high school friend, he began making a film about poverty in Red Hook, and, while shooting it, he began developing exaggerated ideas about his own role in the community.
At one point, he was trying to save people in Red Hook. He would give someone a ride, and to him he was becoming a super-mentor, Belluccis brother, Brian, says. Or he would befriend someone, and he would call it his gang outreach. He thought these were huge gestures.
Vanessa remembers what in hindsight seems a crucial early sign that Belluccis mind was not right. During his film project, he became convinced that someone was trying to steal his videotape. His friend became so concerned by his paranoid behavior that he called Belluccis mother, Marian, who called Vanessa.
I vividly remember where I was when my mother called, she says. So it indicated, looking back, that we were starting to be worried about him.
Around the same time, Bellucci developed another infatuationJudaism. He was raised Catholic, but when he discovered that an Italian grandfather had been Jewish, he began studying Hebrew on his own. He even sought guidance from Rabbi Aaron Twerski, a professor at Brooklyn Law School. But Twerski referred Bellucci to a campus psychiatrist. A school official who saw him around this time tells the Voice, It did not take a maven to see that he was a sick, sick boy.
For those who knew Bellucci well, it was bewildering to see him so quickly become someone they hardly recognized. Only a few years earlier, he had been the star quarterback of the Stuyvesant High School football team, a magnetic standout in a school of standouts.
The Belluccis were a close-knit family in the upscale Annadale neighborhood of Staten Island. Arthur Bellucci had worked as a bond trader on Wall Street before becoming a real estate broker at the Corcoran Group. His wife, Marian, worked as a manager for a home health company and, after an MBA, started a company providing home-nursing services. Marians mother and sister lived nearby and often dropped by to visit. The kids, meanwhile, were pushed to achieve in school, sports, and music. If theres one thing that I remember about the Belluccis, says a high school friend who asked not to be named, its that they were closealmost unusually close for a family in this day and age.
Both Bellucci and his sister, Vanessa, went to the elite Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. When Seventeen magazine profiled the school, Bellucci and his girlfriendthe football teams trainerwere photographed together for the opening spread. Everyone who looked at my brotherall my friendsthought he was the best-looking guy they had ever met, Vanessa says.