When Jennair Gerardot found out her husband was cheating on her, she came up with a plan of revenge, one that would lead to a bloody murder-suicide and stun a quiet Pennsylvania town, US authorities said.
The victim was her husband’s 33-year-old mistress, Meredith Chapman, police believe. She was a lot like Ms Gerardot – a successful, driven, marketing professional in the Delaware area. She also happened to have worked with Ms Gerardot’s husband at the University of Delaware.
After finding out about the affair, Ms Gerardot plotted a “calculated attack”, police said. “There were emails and text messages indicating what she planned to do,” Radnor Township Police superintendent William Colarulo said in a news conference.
On Monday, Ms Gerardot took a train from Delaware to Ms Chapman’s new home in a tranquil residential neighbourhood in Radnor, Pennsylvania, possibly wearing a wig in disguise, police lieutenant Christopher Flanagan said.
She broke through Ms Chapman’s front door, stopping to clean up the shards of broken glass off the floor, it is alleged.
With her Taurus Tracker .357 revolver in hand, she waited for Ms Chapman to get home. As soon as Ms Chapman walked through the door, police said, Ms Gerardot shot her.
Then, lieutenant Flanagan said, Ms Gerardot turned the gun on herself.
When police arrived in response to 911 calls, both women were lying dead near the kitchen.
Melissa DeJoseph, 40, who lives two doors down from Ms Chapman’s residence, told the Philadelphia Inquirer she saw Ms Chapman walking out of her Audi and into her house on Monday evening just before she heard the loud sound.
“In my head, I was like, ‘is that a gunshot? No it can’t be a gunshot,’ ” she said.
Outside the bloody scene, police came across the man who brought the two women together – Ms Gerardot’s husband, Mark Gerardot. “My wife might be inside,” he told police.
Mr Gerardot, who lived with his wife in Wilmington, Delaware, was supposed to meet Ms Chapman for dinner that night. When she hadn’t shown up, he became concerned and showed up at her house in Radnor, police said.
The tragedy “rocked the world” of the township and the surrounding neighbourhood, lieutenant Flanagan said, describing it as a “tightknit community” with many children and families. “Nobody wants to see something like this happen in their neighbourhood,” he added.
But it also shocked the marketing, political and higher education worlds in the Delaware area, industries in which the Chapmans and Gerardots both found some prominence.
Chapman had recently left her job at the University of Delaware and began working as an assistant vice president of marketing and creative services at Villanova University.
A former broadcast journalist in Philadelphia, Ms Chapman served as a communications manager on Capitol Hill for former Republican Michael N Castle. At the University of Delaware, she worked as a senior marketing director and taught classes to students at the undergraduate, MBA and continuing education levels, according to her website. In 2016, she also unsuccessfully ran for a Delaware state Senate seat as a Republican.
She was married to Luke Chapman, a former member of the city council in Newark, Delaware and wrote proudly on Facebook about his work. But she had just recently moved into the three-story brick residence in Radnor alone, no longer living with her husband, police said.
“Meredith was a beacon of light to anyone who was fortunate enough to meet her,” a spokesperson for the Chapman family said in a statement to the News Journal. “She loved her family fiercely, was a compassionate friend and among the most talented and innovative professionals in her field. Her death was sudden and tragic, but will not define who she was to the thousands of people who loved her. Her family is devastated, heartbroken and requests privacy and respect as they grieve.”
Erik Raser-Schramm, the chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party, released a statement on Tuesday saying he was “devastated to learn of the tragic loss of a dear friend”.
“In the hours since receiving the news, it has been impossible for me to imagine our Delaware without someone so transcendent and committed to service,” he said.
“Everyone who knew and worked with Meredith is heartbroken,” the University of Delaware said in a statement to WHYY. “As a proud alumna of UD, her commitment to her work was exceeded only by her boundless energy. She believed earnestly in the power of communication to bring people together, whether to achieve their collective goals or simply to share their stories. We will miss her.”
Mark Gerardot reported to Chapman at the University of Delaware, working as a creative director. The university told the News Journal he left the job there earlier this month.
The Gerardots had been married since 1993, according to Indiana State Library records, the News Journal reported. They lived and worked together in Indiana at a branding and package design agency called Gerardot & Co., co-founded by Mr Gerardot.
Gerardot, who was in her late 40s, described herself on her website as a “confident, creative and resourceful” marketer with more than 16 years of experience. “The softer side of this highly-driven businesswoman also likes exploration and travel and is an avid animal and nature lover,” she wrote.
She would often post photographs with her husband, holding hands on the beach walking their golden retrievers.
Her husband often posted photographs of her on his Instagram. “My birthday present 24/7. I’m a lucky guy,” Mr Gerardot wrote alongside a photo of his wife on Instagram in October 2015.
He also doted on his wife on his website: “On the personal side, my wife and golden retriever are the centre of my universe and the reason I get up every morning.”
The Washington Post