To his coworkers at Exit Realty Gold in Mountain Lakes, Leonardo Parara seemed harmless enough. He helped them with computer troubles, he was knowledgeable about North Jersey real-estate market. He was a snappy dresser who carried a leather briefcase to an from work. So it was unimaginable to them on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 when Parera, 39, of Kearny, walked into the realty offices on Route 46 East, pulled out a semi-automatic Ruger and fired 15 shots into the front-desk receptionist, Christine Capone King, a 47-year-old mother of two.
Moments later, the murderer was killed by police. Below, a recording of a call he made from his cell phone to 911. He tells a dispatcher that he’s reloading his gun and wishes “to escalate” the situation.
Media accounts say Parera had moved to New Jersey three years earlier from Boca Raton, Fla., where he’d failed at a string of businesses. His mother, Gladys, had been listed as an officer on some of Parera’s business ventures that never went anywhere. Before moving to New Jersey in 2007, Parera filed for bankruptcy in Florida, reportedly so he could save a condo he owned from being repossessed.
He lived in a run-down apartment in Kearny with Gladys, 69, who suffered from breast cancer and — according to media reports — had a brain tumor at the time. When he wasn’t trying to sell homes, Parera spent his time helping neighbors with their computer problems. He also spent time online looking for tips on how to meet women.
“He was a very intelligent man,” the owner of a nearby convenience store told Morbid New Jersey. “He used to come in her five, six times a day.” Parera often bought lottery tickets and energy drinks, the store owner said.
The same store owner told the Star-Ledger of Newark that days before the shooting, Parera walked into his store barefoot — unusual for October in North Jersey.
The Star-Ledger uncovered this oddity: When he was hired about a year before the shootings, he told at least one co-worker that he was married. He showed the co-worker a photo of an attractive blond woman and said she was his newly wed wife. Parera’s family told the newspaper that Parera had never been married.
A doting mother of two boys, Christine Capone King was known around the Exit Realty Gold office as bubbly, well-organized and a people person. Co-workers often stopped by her desk for a chat and to reach into the bowl, which she kept filled with candy.
King, 47, was married and lived in a big house in the Oak Ridge section of Jefferson Township. She had two young sons, one of them a teenager attending Rutgers University at the South Jersey campus. A younger son lived at home. She was a cancer survivor and, after her death, co-workers told the Star-Ledger that King brought a ton of happiness to an office that had been adversely affected by the miserable economy.
A look at King’s Facebook page shows a woman who posted status updates frequently, often quoting authors both famous and not-so-famous. In the days and weeks and months before the shooting, King posted comments about jealousy, deception and death.
“Jealousy is simply and clearly the fear that you do not have value,” King posted, quoting Jennifer James. “If you cannot love yourself, you will not believe that you are loved.”
A week before she died, King posted this:
On Oct. 3, she posted this:
Eerie. She had less than two weeks to live.
A couple of months earlier, she’d posted this proverb:
Her co-worker, Leonardo Parera, was her friend on Facebook. But he’d never commented on her page, not even to “Like” one of her status updates. She hadn’t commented on his page, either, except to “Like” a comment he made, which had to do with the realty business only. Parera didn’t make personal comments on Facebook.
King’s desk was the first one people would see when they entered the office.
Parera entered the office on about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. Parking his white Honda Civic in the lot and probably entering through this door:
Exit Realty Gold is housed in the same building as the Mental Health Association of Morris County:
In his pocket was a semi-automatic handgun, possibly a Ruger. He reportedly had a long-range rifle stashed in his car.
Co-workers told the Star-Ledger that Parera just wasn’t himself when he entered the Mountain Lakes office for the last time. Fellow agent Maria Lopez, who greeted Parera at the front door, said he looked “pale and nervous,” according to the newspaper.
Parera asked the agent how long she was going to be there.
The only other person in the front office was King.
Lopez told Parera she’d be there another 20 minutes. So Parera made himself a cup of coffee, took a seat and waited.
“He was just sitting there drinking his coffee,” Lopez told the Star-Ledger.
Feeling uncomfortable, Lopez decided to Leave.
“I’ll see you when I see you,” she said to Parera.
“Uh-huh,” Parera said.
It was about 4:40 p.m.
Moments later, Parera pulled out a handgun and shot King repeatedly as she sat at her desk. He fired 15 shots, striking her at very close range.
Upon hearing gunshots, Exit Realty Gold workers in another room — outside of the view of the crime scene — leapt under desks or hid in other offices.
The scene was reportedly so bloody, that when the office reopened weeks later the carpet under King’s desk had been cut out and removed.
Oh yeah, and within minutes after he calmly called 911, Parera was shot and killed by a tactical unit from the Morris County Sheriff’s Department.
Nobody is sure what led Parera to snap and kill his co-worker. One Exit Realty agent told a newspaper reporter that Leo “took the secret with him to his grave.”
UPDATE (FEB. 9, 2012) — Morris County authorities say their investigation of the shooting has ending with the conclusion that Parera and King had nothing but a professional relationship. They determined this after extensive inspection of cell phone and email records. Parera was a textbook “suicide by cop,” they reported.