May 3

This Day in History

Crime

May 3, 1992:

Exxon executive is murdered

Exxon executive Sidney Reso dies in a storage vault in New Jersey. Four days earlier, he was abducted from the driveway of his Morris Township, New Jersey, home. Reso was shot in the arm, bound and gagged, and then placed in a wooden box that was hidden in a virtually airless storage space. Despite his death, the kidnappers continued with their ransom plans.

The kidnappers' notably complex ransom notes demanding $18.5 million in used $100 bills were sometimes signed, "Rainbow Warriors." Detectives were able to get DNA samples from both the ransom notes and the pay phones at Exxon stations where the kidnappers made their calls, leading them to Arthur and Irene Seale. The couple was arrested on June 19, 1992, after a protracted chase involving more than 100 FBI agents.

Arthur Seale was a former police officer and Exxon security consultant who was fired in 1987. Apparently, choosing Reso as his victim was partially fueled by his hatred of Exxon. Seale tried to throw the FBI offtrack by pretending that the kidnapping was the work of environmental radicals. However, the Seales were mainly motivated by their desire to fund a lavish lifestyle. After running up a mountain of debt living in a couple of resort towns, they were forced to move in with Arthur's parents.

Irene Seale was eventually persuaded to testify against her husband, and she led officers to Reso's body, which had been dumped in a remote area of the southern New Jersey Pine Barrens. Since New Jersey law prevented a person from testifying against his or her spouse in court, a federal court, which permits spousal testimony, tried Arthur Seale instead. He was convicted and sentenced to 95 years in prison and fined $1.75 million. Irene Seale received a 20-year sentence.

In an interesting parallel that occurred later that year, Sol Wachtler, the chief judge of New York's highest court, copied some of Seale's tactics to terrorize his former lover, Joy Silverman. Investigators examining the letters that Wachtler sent anonymously to Silverman were so similar to those written by Seale that at first they thought Seale was somehow connected. In fact, it turned out that Wachtler was so fascinated by the Reso kidnapping that he purposefully mimicked the style of Seale's ransom notes. In this bizarre case, Justice Wachtler was convicted of stalking Silverman and her teenage daughter and was sent to prison after resigning from his position.

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