GRAND UNION'S LENNON IS MURDERED

WAYNE, N.J. -- Well-known industry executive Brooke D. Lennon of Grand Union Co. here has been found dead in a secluded area of New Hempstead, N.Y. Police have ruled the death a murder.Lennon, 55, was a senior vice president of merchandising at Grand Union. He had been with the company since 1966 in various capacities. He was also a high-profile figure at various industry functions in recent years.

WAYNE, N.J. -- Well-known industry executive Brooke D. Lennon of Grand Union Co. here has been found dead in a secluded area of New Hempstead, N.Y. Police have ruled the death a murder.

Lennon, 55, was a senior vice president of merchandising at Grand Union. He had been with the company since 1966 in various capacities. He was also a high-profile figure at various industry functions in recent years. His opinions were frequently quoted in the pages of SN. One of the most recent projects involving Lennon and SN was the cover story of the Sept. 20, 1993, issue of Supermarket Baby, an SN supplement that featured his photograph. Charged with second-degree murder in connection with the incident are Lennon's wife, Michelle, and a man described as her boyfriend.

Michelle Lennon, 23, and Robert Tomassi, a 25-year-old unemployed mechanic who lived with her in a separate residence, were being held without bail at Rockland County jail and were expected to enter pleas in Ramapo Justice Court.

New York does not have a death penalty, so second-degree murder is the maximum charge that can be filed in the case. It carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life.

Kenneth Gribetz, district attorney for Rockland County, declined to say whether Michelle Lennon and Tomassi had confessed to the murder. But he told SN they had signed statements.

Gribetz said he believes he has enough evidence to hold the couple

pending grand jury indictments. He also told SN he expects a trial to be held "within six months at the outside."

The motive for the murder, he pointed out, may have been Lennon's $2 million life insurance policy, which named his wife as beneficiary.

Grand Union officials declined comment last week on Lennon's death, but industry colleagues and friends described Lennon as a man of superior intellect, insight and warmth. Lennon joined Grand Union as a buyer in the chain's New York region, serving stores in metropolitan New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. He subsequently served as a private-label buyer and grocery merchandise manager before being named sales promotion manager for the company's northern region, based in Waterford, N.Y.

He was named senior vice president of merchandising in February 1993. His was responsible for overseeing sales and merchandising. William A. Louttit, Grand Union's executive vice president and chief operating officer, will temporarily assume Lennon's responsibilities.

Lennon married Michelle Fintzy, his second wife, about a year ago.

They had a two-story bungalow in the Rockland County community of Monsey, located about 25 miles northwest of New York City near the New Jersey border. However, Lennon apparently lived separately at a condominium in Edgewater, N.J., Gribetz said.

According to Gribetz, Michelle Lennon had "an intimate relationship" with Tomassi and "a rocky relationship" with Lennon. Both she and Tomassi also were crack users, Gribetz said. "There was tremendous animosity" between the Lennons, "and she wanted to terminate the marriage," Gribetz told SN.

Lennon was last at work on June 9. That night, he confronted his wife and Tomassi in Monsey, according to Gribetz.

He had been drinking and had fallen asleep when he was beaten to death, Gribetz said.

According to local law enforcement authorities, Lennon was killed between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. the morning of June 10, a Friday. He was beaten with a baseball bat, a plastic bag was put over his head and he was then strangled with a telephone jack cord.

About 4 a.m. his body was placed in the trunk of his car, authorities said, and taken to a wooded area in New Hempstead, N.Y., about three miles north of Monsey.

Authorities said the car was driven into a yet-to-be-built new-homes subdivision, where it apparently became stuck in some mud, spoiling the pair's plan to leave the body and drive back in the car.

The alleged murderers then hid the body under a fallen tree, covered it with bark and fled on foot, hailing a taxi to take them back to Monsey, authorities said.

Residents in the area noticed the abandoned car, a maroon Lincoln Mark VIII, later that Friday but did not call police until Saturday afternoon. While investigating the car, which was registered to Grand Union, the police found Lennon's body 30 feet away, dressed in a T-shirt and sweat pants.

His wallet, credit cards and pictures were found in a nearby sewer basin.

Police questioned Michelle Lennon and Tomassi that night and served them with a search warrant for the home at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. In the course of their search, police found a baseball bat, believed to be the murder weapon, and a telephone junction box that had been attached to the jack cord allegedly used to strangle Lennon.

Michelle Lennon and Tomassi were arrested several hours later.