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Garfield Defendant Wants Separate Trial From Lover In Cliffside Park Murder

Michael Sampson, Jacqueline Pierro
Michael Sampson, Jacqueline Pierro Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia

CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. -- The attorney for a Garfield woman charged in connection with what authorities said was the shooting death of a Cliffside Park man by her boyfriend said he'll ask the judge for separate trials.

Peter Willis said he'll make the request on behalf of Jacqueline Pierro, who is charged with hindering the arrest of Michael Sampson, as well as with leaving their then-4-month-old daughter with him when she knew that police had pegged him as the shooter.

Superior Court Judge Margaret M. Foti set a trial date Monday of March 21 and said she would entertain Willis's request and others by attorneys for both sides the week before.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer told the judge last month that family members of the victim, Hector Tito Zabala Jr., agree there should be no plea deal and that both defendants should go to trial.

Grootenboer also said she's floated an "informal" offer of at least 40 years in state prison to Sampson.

Also known as Michael Perez, Sampson is charged with shooting Zabala dead as he walked home from an Anderson Avenue bar after an argument between the two the night of July 8, 2012.

Grootenboer said Sampson went to his car, where Pierro was waiting, got the gun and then fired it at Zabala.

“At least five shots at close range is more than a murder -- it’s an execution,” she told Foti last month.

Sampson has remained in the Bergen County Jail since he and Pierro were arrested three days later. His bail was $3.5 million. She has remained free on $25,000 bail.

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