Killing Mom and Dad on Staten Island

All-American kid Eric Bellucci fell into madness and violence, leaving his brother and sister behind to wonder if he could have been stopped

“He was becoming disorganized,” says Brian. “His ambitions were starting to make less and less sense. There were some realistic things, like law school, and some unrealistic things, like turning his businesses into empires, and it would become nationwide, and with that he could buy a villa in Tuscany! At first, some things seemed realistic, but then they just started to come, you know, over and over and one after the other. If you took all his ambitions together, they were no longer ambitions. They were delusions. Because no one could be all that at one time.”

The family did not know what to make of Bellucci’s behavior. “At first we chalked it up to that egotistical aspect of his personality,” Brian says. “It’s like, if you know somebody is mentally ill, you look at what they do and say they are delusional. But if you don’t know they are mentally ill, then you look at it differently.”

Schizophrenia expert Velligan says that it is common for families, in the early stages of the illness, to have trouble distinguishing between the signs of sickness and the more extreme sides of the person’s personality. “Our personalities are what they are, and should we become psychotic, our personalities shine through that. So if his worldview is ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong,’ then when a person becomes psychotic, that is developed to the extreme.”

“We all became worried around the same time,” Vanessa says. “But it was about him, never about ourselves. And we knew that there were issues that were coming up and needing to be addressed, but you’re not really sure how to go about doing it.” She adds: “Maybe there is a denial element. But then it just becomes so clear that you can’t be in denial.”

By 2005, the delusions had really set in. “He thought he was leading this big life,” Brian says. “At that point, his lifestyle was changing from one minute to the next.” He would go for months without seeing his friends, and then would call people constantly. He would go into the city and stay out all night. At one point, he went to Atlantic City five times in a month. He started taking more trips to Israel, but instead of scheduling them a week or two in advance, as he once had, he would buy his ticket and fly out on the same day.

The family tried to bring up their concerns with Bellucci, but it was not easy. He would usually get angry, and tell them that they were the ones who needed psychiatric help.

Bellucci also began to develop a military obsession, and would walk around the house in Army fatigues. “My mother would say, ‘Eric, you have a closet full of clothes—why are you wearing the same thing every day?’ ” Vanessa recalls. Sometimes he would dress very formally, and would put on a suit to go out and check the mail. He would drive to West Virginia to buy hunting rifles at Walmart and began racking up credit-card debt. He adopted certain phrases indicative of paranoia—“Something’s up in the town here,” was one of them. At times, he thought he was a victim or possibly a member of organized crime. And he started to develop a hatred of women, and often said that his female relatives were conspiring against him.

At that time, Terre Ciervo, Marian’s sister, remembers that he would act remote at family events—making brief appearances and then leaving mysteriously. Relatives say that sometimes, to escape the city and seek what he referred to as “his peace and serenity,” he would go back to Williamstown, Massachusetts, where Williams College is located. Sometimes he would book a hotel for the weekend, but he never went back to visit his football coaches that he had been close to. He lost touch with friends.

As Bellucci became more delusional, he would say that it disappointed him that his family did not believe in his grand plans. “He started to feel like we weren’t taking him seriously,” Vanessa says. He became resentful and angry, and began referring to his parents by their first names. There were frequent fights in the Bellucci household, but family members tried their best to pick their battles, knowing that any disagreement could throw him into a rage. Sometimes, when he got very angry, he punched walls or doors, busted car tires, or scratched cars with his knives and his keys. One time, he got so angry that Marian locked herself in the bathroom in terror. After that, the family was walking on eggshells, doing whatever they could not to antagonize him.

Attempting to diffuse the anger, Marian would jump at every opportunity to have a conversation with her son. She would listen whenever he was in the mood to actually talk, even if all he discussed were his delusions.

“You could just see the toll it took on her, on her face,” says Ciervo. “In just a few years,” says Vanessa, “they aged so much. It really hurt.”

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