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Suspect Held in Killings of Four at Suburban Post Office

March 22, 1995

MONTCLAIR, N.J. (AP) _ A former temporary postal worker was arrested Wednesday in the slayings of four people in a holdup at a small neighborhood post office.

The man was taken into custody shortly before noon at an apartment in a high-rise in East Orange, four miles from this New York City suburb.

The arrest came less than 24 hours after the robbery, in which two postal employees and two customers were shot to death and another patron was critically wounded just before the post office closed at 4 p.m.

Postal officials and police refused to identify the suspect or give details about the investigation or charges pending an afternoon news conference.

Court papers said he had been a temporary postal employee in 1992-93. The papers did not say where he had worked.

Police also said they found a car in Newark that was involved in the crime, but would not say how the vehicle was connected.

Authorities have said they believe robbery was the motive but would not give details.

Hank Rauer, president of the New Jersey Mid-State Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union, said that it appeared money had been taken. He said the station ``averages a couple of thousand dollars a day″ in business.

The neighborhood post office is a satellite of the main Montclair station. Earlier this month, the main office put in bulletproof glass to protect its workers, but the substation had no protective glass or surveillance cameras.

Postmaster General Marvin Runyon said Wednesday that the small office was considered low-risk. ``We will study this facility and the rest of the facilities in this area in regard to security measures,″ he said.

On Feb. 27, two men held up a small post office in Sayreville, about 25 miles from Montclair. It was unclear how much money was stolen. The Postal Service offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the gunmen’s arrest.

Police Chief Thomas Russo identified the dead postal workers as Stanley Scott Walensky, 42, and Ernest Spruill, 56. The two slain customers were Robert Leslie, 38, and George Lomoga, 59. David Grossman, 45, was shot twice in the face and was in critical condition.

All the victims lived in Montclair except for Lomoga, who lived in Glen Ridge.

The attack shook the normally quiet, middle- to upper-middle-class community of about 38,000 people, 15 miles west of New York City.

``You can get to the city easily but it’s far enough away so you feel safe and isolated from crime,″ Brent Balasa said. ``But I’m not so sure if the suburbs are safe anymore.″

Frank Grippaldi, owner of Sizz Haircutters, said he was shocked that the violence hit so close to home. ``I just was over there yesterday,″ he said. ``I mailed my income-tax return and I was talking to Scott Walensky. I knew his father. He was a mail carrier, too.″

But Nick Cannestro, a worker at the Montclair Water Bureau, said he wasn’t surprised.

``I’ve been here three years. I’ve seen a notable change in the past year. Car thefts, break-ins, there’s a lot of tension,″ he said. ``It shouldn’t be a shock. You’re only 10 minutes from New York, five minutes from Newark, a high-crime area. I guess these people have been lucky all these years.″

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