Lisa Gaudenzi
Lisa Gaudenzi

Joseph Marto has mourned his daughter for 15 years. Now, he can lay her to rest.

Last year, the Somers Point man’s long-held belief that Lisa Gaudenzi’s disappearance in Virginia came at the hands of her husband was confirmed. Three days into his murder trial, Lawrence Gaudenzi admitted he killed Lisa, 31. The woman fell and broke her neck, he claimed.

Gaudenzi was sentenced to 25 years in prison on a second-degree murder plea. But Marto still didn’t know where his daughter’s body was.

That wasn’t good enough for him. Or for the investigators.

“I kept after Lawrence about where he left Lisa because her parents and children deserved to have that closure,” Special Agent J.R. Lyons, of the Virginia State Police, said Monday at a news conference in Richmond, Va. “I had to be persistent for the family.”

On Friday, Lyons — who is known as “Doc” — and Agent T.C. Collins were able to give Lisa’s father the news, and her remains. They made the trip from Virginia to Marto’s cash-for-gold business in Atlantic City to tell him in person.

“They took it pretty bad when they had to come see us,” Marto said Monday. “When Doc was telling us, he was breaking up.”

The investigators have become friends over the years, Marto explained.

“We called them at least once or twice a week,” he said.

When the remains were located, Lyons was asked if he had Marto’s number.

“He’s on speed dial,” Lyons replied.

Lawrence Gaudenzi had refused to say where Lisa’s body was, until last Wednesday, when he led investigators to a remote area in Spotsylvania County, Va., about 30 miles from the couples’ former home.

He said he put his wife’s body in a sleeping bag, then put it into a drum that he filled with brick-washing acid.

There was no drum when investigators arrived, but five hours of sifting through soil produced a porcelain dental bridge. The medical examiner took only 10 minutes to confirm it was Lisa’s. She got the work done following a car accident, her father explained.

He’s not sure what he will do with the bridge, but was happy to find “where my daughter’s soul left her body.”

“I think (Gaudenzi) thought he would get some leniency,” Marto theorized about the reason his daughter’s killer finally revealed her location. “Usually the body is a tool to gain that.”

Not in this case.

“Tony Spencer (the commonwealth’s attorney) said he wouldn’t serve one day, one minute, one second less,” Marto said. “That makes me very happy.”

Gaudenzi’s projected release date remains Feb. 6, 2030. But his time in prison could be even longer if an open investigation comes to fruition.

The admitted killer is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Randy Evans, a homeless Richmond man who has not been seen since 1998. Gaudenzi was found living under that name in 2002. That investigation is ongoing.

Lisa Gaudenzi was supposed to arrive at Fort Lee for Army officer training Jan. 27, 1995, but never arrived. Her husband said he dropped her off for the bus in Richmond the day before.

“I always knew he killed her,” Marto said.

But his daughter was dishonorably discharged for going absent without leave before the investigation found she was murdered. Last year, she was honored with a military service after Gaudenzi’s murder confession.

Meanwhile, one loss remains. Marto has no contact with the younger of his two granddaughters, the only child the Gaudenzis had together. She was only 15 months old when her mother disappeared and still believes her father is innocent, Marto said.

But he has Lisa’s older daughter, along with her 2-year-old little girl, “the apple of my eye.”

Marto said he and his wife, Nancy, plan to move to Florida to be closer to them. Lisa Gaudenzi’s mother also lives in Florida.

Contact Lynda Cohen:

609-272-7257