EXCLUSIVE: Weeks from the first anniversary of Viviana Tulli’s murder, her headstone is finally in place, replacing a wooden cross sticking from the grave, thanks to a company that responded to a CLIFFVIEW PILOT bid for help.
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Stella Tulli sat on the grave in front of the stone, alone. She looked at her slain sister’s photo – one she chose herself – and the elegant crown chiseled above her head .
“It’s finally acceptance for me that she is no longer here,” she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT during her private, late-morning visit to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Saddle Brook. “Our hearts are heavy with pain and sorrow, but we have started picking up the shattered pieces.”
Ex-con David Goodell strangled his 21-year-old ex-girlfriend hours after fleeing a hospital he was taken to while staying at a halfway house, police said. He then drove her car head-on into a police cruiser, her body still in the passenger seat. (See links to CLIFFVIEWPILOT ’s coverage below.)
Goodell, of Clifton, is still awaiting trial.Stella & Vivian
Those with direct knowledge of the case have told
that he’ll likely be judged criminally insane.
“It’s funny: You watch a crime show and it’s all wrapped up quickly. Not here,” Tulli said. “We may have to go through a murder trial with a jury. We may have to rehash all the facts. I might have to hear him actually say, ‘Not guilty’.”
It was their mother’s birthday that Aug. 30 th day. It was also the day, in a tragic stroke of bad luck, that their father lost his job.
Through it all, Stella has had trouble accepting Viviana’s death. They were that close.
Still, she has kept at it, seeking help and support from compassionate, selfless people, such as children’s advocate Rosemarie D’Alessando, whose daughter’s murder prompted a change in New Jersey law.
For such an intensely proud woman as Stella Tulli, it was a huge step.
“It’s amazing what the love for a sibling will make you do,” she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT today. “When I reflect on the previous year and all I have set out to do, I’m surprised by my strength. It’s a strength I was not aware I had. All I wanted to do was show love and strength for Vivi and our family.
“My goal is to bring Vivi’s killer to justice and to someday help other women hopefully prevent another family suffering as mine has.”
For Stella Tulli’s personal account of her sister’s murder and its aftermath: Slip-up leaves slain woman’s sister still seeking answers
This morning was quiet, somber – a typical lazy summer day. Tulli was at work when her mom called with the news, and she went straight to the cemetery from work.
What it looked like before
Her mother’s emotions collided the moment she reached the spot: Gratefulness that the stone at least was completed was mixed with the intense pain of a reopened wound.
Stella, meanwhile, was flooded with memories.
Sitting there, she replayed scenes of her younger sister in her mind’s eye: Vivi at 3 days old, a year, going to kindergarten at 5, middle school at 12. She recalled Vivi’s high-school graduation, as well as her 21 st birthday.
Then Stella began to cry.
“We can’t bring her back. God knows, I tried,” she said. “I’ve hit every grief stage, and now it’s time to accept reality. Vivi has passed on, forever our guardian angel.”
Tulli emphasized her gratitude to Kulinski Memorials , which donated the headstone after being contacted by CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Not knowing me, they showed that there is still goodness in such a cruel world,” she said.
She also insisted her thanks to CLIFFVIEW PILOT be noted, as well as her gratefulness to everyone who has helped the family the past year. People have brought over dinner, helped with various chores, and even held fundraisers– including one that drew a packed house to a Pips Pub in Garfield. Family members have received nothing but unconditional love.
They were reduced to borrowing from friends and family to pay for Viviana’s funeral. Donations have helped defray some, but not all, of the various costs.
“It’s not what we do that breaks us. It’s what we think we can’t do,” Stella Tulli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT today. “Thanks, everyone, for being a part of our lives when we needed you most.
“No matter what life throws at us, in spite of pain and tears, it is still worth living.”
MORE (Click on headlines for full stories) :Tuesday, 03 May 2011 16:05 Stella Tulli
ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: My cellphone was vibrating. I wished my mom a “Happy Birthday” that morning and all seemed right. But as the hours passed, a feeling of uneasiness crept over me. So I answered. “The police called your father. They want us all to go to the police station,” Mom said. “Something happened to Vivi.”
Vivian (left) and Stella
I got there and officers immediately started asking me questions. All I could stammer out was “Is she alive?”
“Your sister was in an accident,” one of them said. “She was killed.”
ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : A prominent memorials company is donating the headstone for a murdered 21-year-old Garfield High School graduate whose family has hit hard times. Meanwhile, a Garfield bar plans a Dec. 4 fundraiser to help Viviana Tulli’s family.
ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : Viviana Tulli’s dad got laid off and her mother had a birthday the same day the 21-year-old Garfield High School graduate was murdered. A devastated family was reduced to borrowing from friends and family to pay $16,000 toward her funeral, after getting $5,000 from the state. Now, Viviana’s sister is hoping donations will help pay for a headstone.
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 20:42 Jerry DeMarco
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli confirmed a CLIFFVIEW PILOT report that an ex-con accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend and then ramming her car into a police cruiser was out on parole when the crimes occurred.
ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT:
It wasn’t as if Viviana Tulli didn’t know the history of the man who authorities said strangled her Monday before apparently trying to commit suicide-by-cop. The ex-con had been released from prison to a halfway house earlier this year after serving time for
assaulting officers and threatening a previous girlfriend in Passaic County,
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A bloodied man who police believe had just strangled an ex-girlfriend drove her car head-on into a police cruiser with the woman’s body still in the passenger seat, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said. The lifeless body of 21-year-old Viviana Tulli of Saddle Brook was found in the car driven by David Goodell, 30, of Clifton (formerly of Ridgefield Park) after the crash, he said.
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