In his own words, killer cop Philip Seidle talks about trouble at home and in Neptune police department.
Philip Seidle hates being called a “killer cop.”
The former Neptune police sergeant spends his days mostly alone, locked in a maximum- security cell at New Jersey State Prison, the facility for the state’s toughest inmates.
“It is true I killed and I was a police officer,” Seidle wrote in an online message to the Asbury Park Press following a November court hearing in which a headline termed him a “killer cop.”
That particular phrase chaffed him. The term is “unnecessary,” Seidle wrote. It “feels a bit like an attempt to disparage me.”
Once entrusted with a badge and a gun to protect the town he called home, Seidle, 53, is no longer trusted with a real pen.
In evenly spaced, all-capitalized letters, Seidle wrote his life story on 27 yellow sheets of legal- size paper after being contacted by the Press in the summer to discuss his crime. The prison allows him to write with a “flex pen” – a crude ink tube with a rudimentary ballpoint used by inmates. The floppy writing tool is designed to not become a weapon in lockup.
“I killed my wife, and the mother of my children, the most horrific thing,” Seidle wrote. “I destroyed my children’s lives. What I did is absolutely unacceptable. I can’t forgive myself, and don’t hold out any hope they ever will.”
Seidle also spoke exclusively to the Press through phone calls facilitated by his one-time mistress. They still tell each other “I love you” on the calls.
Seidle said he doesn’t remember fatally shooting his ex-wife, Tamara Wilson-Seidle on June 16, 2015, in the middle of an Asbury Park street, in front of their 7-year-old daughter.
“I just think I had a mental breakdown. I just – because of all the stress that I was under and the anger that I had,” Seidle said. “I just blacked out that day.”
Signs of domestic problems in the Seidle home were long known to Seidle’s colleagues, his supervisors, his chief, neighboring police departments, and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, documents and interviews show.
Seidle’s department grew concerned enough to confiscate his service weapon in 2012 and again in 2014. His .40-caliber Glock, though, was returned to him. It was the weapon he used to gun down Tamara.
In his 22-year career, Seidle was the subject of 26 internal affairs reports conducted before the shooting.
His secret internal affairs file tops 600 pages.
The Press is suing Neptune to make the file public. A judge could decide the matter next month.
What is known is that police responded to at least nine domestic incidents between the Seidles and 10 custody disputes – with police providing an escort during at least one custody confrontation.
Seidle shared his psychologist’s notes that detail the emotional devastation he said he felt during the custody battle with his wife. Both Seidle and his wife filed for domestic violence restraining orders, alleging past abuse.
This is a story about the two Phil Seidles.
In the community, Seidle was known as an upstanding officer – respected by citizens, looked up to by colleagues, a loving father of nine.
But beneath that public persona, Seidle’s stress and frustration were no secret to his colleagues and supervisors. Both he and his wife made claims of domestic violence. Seidle denied claims that he abused his ex-wife.
“Tamara did not become a victim until I killed her that day,” he wrote.
‘I’m tired of it!’
The Seidles’ multiple domestic disputes were handled by authorities as isolated incidents, not looked at as a continuing pattern, public police records show.
The domestic issues caused Seidle to be suspended from his department at least twice and disarmed at least once, records show. Seidle said he was also disarmed a second time. He was sent by his department for psychological review at least three times.
Yet Seidle returned to duty, armed and frustrated.
Tamara’s death at age 51 left their nine children without parents, prompted a multimillion-dollar legal claim by the kids and tainted the careers of two responding officers.
Born in Munich, West Germany, Tamara Wilson-Seidle often reminisced about milking cows and wearing traditional dirndl dresses as a child, her obituary said. She was a cheerleader and Neptune High School homecoming queen in 1982. She coached soccer. She was a devout Catholic, serving as director of religious education for the Mother of Mercy Parish.
When Seidle was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter, their eldest daughter described Tamara as “the soul and the light” of their family. Her killing shocked those in the community who knew Seidle as a police officer, a father of a large family, a teacher of Catholic faith and a kids’ soccer coach.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said the killing couldn’t have been anticipated. He issued a report he touted as “comprehensive and extensive.” But that report excluded the Seidle divorce and police escorts during their custody dispute, a conflict that drove Seidle to kill.
Seidle said he began to unravel during Tamara’s pursuit of child custody, which he felt rose to criminal interference. The day he killed her, he shouted about his kids as he stood in the street with his pistol to his head.
“I’m tired of it! I’m tired of it! I got nine f—— kids she stole from me!” Seidle ranted, all of it picked up on a police dash camera recording.
Seidle said he was devastated by his fraying relationship with his children and the warming relationship between Tamara’s new boyfriend and the Seidle children.
“After two years of fighting for your children, they don’t want to be with you,” Seidle wrote in an online message. “You continue trying, but nothing works. Everyone acknowledges you’re legally within your right to get them back, but nothing gets done. Then after 3 1/2 years of crying and wanting just to be a part of your children’s lives, to talk to them, to see them, to know what’s going on in their lives, to go to church, and do the things you used to. Then one day you find out they’ve been given away to someone else. Perhaps you take it lightly? Maybe you think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.
“You tell me Mr. Ford. Tell me that isn’t enough to bring someone to violence? I’m not saying it’s right! I’m saying nothing stirs violence like a child. That’s all I’m saying. I want this narrative of me being inherently violent to stop. Period. I want this idea that I was the one who needed to be stopped to cease. Tamara should have been stopped! Period. All I wanted was to share in my children’s lives. If I had been allowed to, I’d have been fine. It was my right under every law on this earth, and I shouldn’t have had to wait until she felt like abiding by the law.”
Seidle said he struggled to deal with stress at home. He said he should have been on medication, maybe an antidepressant or antianxiety drug. He should have moved away from the situation with his ex-wife.
Seidle’s chief acknowledged investigations uncovered “major problems” with Seidle, according to a court document.
One police internal affairs expert said the repetitive domestic tensions between the Seidles should have sent warning signs to his supervisors.
“Between the work issues and the domestic violence complaints and the 911 calls to his house, someone, someone has to take the responsibility and tying all that together and saying there’s a significant concern,” said Michael D’Angelo, a retired police captain who served 23 years in South Miami Police Department, including performing internal affairs duties, and now works as a consultant on civil cases involving police.
A history of conflict
More than four years before the shooting, Tamara filed for a domestic violence civil complaint and restraining order, court documents provided by Seidle show. She claimed Seidle put a gun to her cheek, gave her a black eye and kicked her stomach while pregnant. Seidle said in an interview those allegations were false. Tamara’s quest for a restraining order was denied.
Three years before the shooting, “ongoing domestic incidents” were discussed by a lieutenant in Neptune and a sergeant in Tinton Falls when they handled a confrontation between the Seidles, according to a police report. Higher ranking officers in both departments were notified of the incident.
More than a year before the shooting, Seidle filed for a domestic violence civil complaint and restraining order of his own. He claimed in court documents that Tamara once threatened to kill him after he declined to have sex with her, she once threw items around their house, she involved the police in personal matters to embarrass him and in the past poked him in the chest and face, pushed him and slapped him. His restraining order wasn’t granted either.
Less than a year before the shooting, Seidle tried to retire from the force in a fit of frustration over friction with his wife and his deteriorating relationship with his children. He handed in his badge and gun. But Seidle said his colleagues encouraged him to return. He was put back on the job and rearmed.
Two months before the shooting, Seidle filed a criminal complaint alleging that Tamara violated a judge’s custody order by preventing Seidle’s visits and phone calls, the court document shows.
Six days before the shooting, a letter shows Bradley Beach Municipal Court Judge Richard B. Thompson found no probable cause for Seidle’s criminal complaint, saying the issue was a civil matter.
Then on the morning of June 16, 2015, Seidle learned Tamara’s new boyfriend had been spending time alone with the Seidle children.
Seidle said he doesn’t remember chasing Tamara’s car through the streets of Asbury Park with his 7-year-old daughter in his passenger seat. He doesn’t remember running Tamara’s car off the road in front of bewildered residents. He doesn’t remember firing 13 rounds at close range in two volleys two minutes apart.
He does remember confronting his ex-wife in a church parking lot.
Then he remembers staring at her limp foot hanging through the shattered glass of her car window.
“I realized I had shot her,” Seidle said.
Trouble from the start
Seidle was born to unmarried parents in April 1964 in Philadelphia. He wrote that he felt his father abandoned the family.
“After high school, I didn’t believe myself to be disciplined enough to go to college. Wanting to travel, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July of 1982 at 18,” he wrote.
“I met Tamara in Oct. of ’89 through a mutual friend of ours, with whom I’d been stationed with onboard both (U.S.S) Nitro and the Philly commissary. We talked on the phone for several months and began dating in February of 1990. She became pregnant in April 1990…”
They were both 26. They married in August 1990, in St. Peter Claver Church in Asbury Park, court documents show. That’s about half a mile from where Seidle shot Tamara.
Seidle was honorably discharged from the Navy and hired by Neptune Township Police Department in July 1993.
Within a year of his hire, the department knew about Seidle’s trouble at home. In March 1994, Seidle called Neptune police after Tamara allegedly threw a chair at him, according to a prosecutor’s office report. But then, as it would happen several more times in the future, neither Seidle nor Tamara filed a criminal complaint.
“You know, there were a lot of problems,” Seidle said in a prison phone call. “But we didn’t believe in divorce and so we stayed together.”
Bound by Catholic doctrine, the Seidle marriage was a cycle of faith, sin and reconciliation. For decades, there were showdowns documented by police and later in court between the Seidles, with each making allegations of domestic violence against the other.
Internal affairs expert D’Angelo reviewed the special report on the Seidle shooting issued by Prosecutor Gramiccioni in 2016, a year after the shooting.
“Somewhere in here, there just reads of a complete – I don’t know if it was a conscious decision – but just a complete disregard for her well-being,” D’Angelo said. “You investigated your officer several times. If you think that your obligation has ended when you complete that investigation and dish out whatever punishment that the higher ups have deemed fair to him, I mean, when there’s domestic violence, the department knows that their obligation hasn’t ended.”
Even Seidle acknowledged the repeated calls should have warranted further scrutiny, though he contends that his wife was lying to the police.
“The thing is that after all these complaints someone should have stepped in and done some kind of investigation and said: what is going on here?” He said. “Why is she constantly calling the police? Why does she continue to call the police for these matters?”
Gramiccioni’s report underscores a failing in New Jersey police policy.
“This review and analysis disclosed a critical flaw in the domestic violence policies and procedures that currently exist statewide,” the report stated. The report also raised concern with officers who are the subject of numerous internal affairs complaints.
Gramiccioni has since established an “early warning system” in which Monmouth County departments are required to report to the prosecutor’s office if an officer meets criteria like being involved in a domestic violence incident.
Gramiccioni’s report was produced by his office after the New Jersey Attorney General’s office found no conflict of interest with the prosecutor’s office investigating. The report largely absolves those who oversaw Seidle, including the prosecutor’s office.
“While the law enforcement response to this matter had its flaws in some regard, none of them caused the death of Tamara Seidle. Philip Seidle did,” Gramiccioni said at his 2016 press conference. “With hindsight being 20/20, the unfortunate reality is that no alternative or additional police action that could have prevented Seidle from brutally killing Tamara Seidle on that fateful day in Asbury Park. It’s simply a crime of passion that could not be anticipated.” Seidle wrote from prison that Gramiccioni was protecting his office from legal liability.
“That declaration was for the civil suit,” Seidle wrote. “And basically, their investigation covered all of the allegations made by my children in the suit. They cleared themselves in a case where they are my co-defendants. I think there’s something wrong with that, and cannot understand why the Attorney General’s Office allowed it.”
In an interview, the prosecutor’s office limited its comments on Seidle, pointing to the children’s lawsuit.
Many people surrounding the Seidles didn’t respond or declined to comment, including the attorney representing the Seidle children in the lawsuit, the Seidles’ priest, the Catholic Diocese of Trenton, the Seidles’ divorce attorneys, the Neptune police chief, and former police director.
Despite trouble at home, Seidle worked his way up the police ranks eventually earning $140,000 a year as a sergeant. He was the breadwinner, providing his family with a 2,286- square-foot home with a large yard on a quiet cul-de-sac in a recently-developed subdivision. “I had a few bumps the first couple years,” he wrote of his career. “I had a number of car accidents (minor), and fell and cut my eye open. I studied on and off the job hard to learn the law, and how to survive on the streets as a proactive officer. I earned a reputation for being very knowledgeable in the law, and for making good arrests.”
Seidle worked in patrol, later as a detective and as a sergeant. He was credited for police work in Asbury Park Press stories. He helped make arrests in a car theft ring in 1995, he was among officers who booked several people after a shooting in 1997. While patrolling in an unmarked car in 1998, he arrested a man who tried to sell him cocaine. He received a commendation from the 200 Club of Monmouth County – an organization that supports the police – in 2007 for his role as a detective on the department’s “quality of life team.”
He provided letters of support citizens wrote on his behalf.
“In the last week I had occasion to be in touch with your Patrolman Philip Seidel (sic) on three occasions and I wanted to let you know that I found him to show good judgment and professionalism on each occasion,” Ruth E. Buck, proprietor of The Shelburne Hotel, wrote in June 1994.
Seidle wrote often about his children. He was there for each of the nine births, he wrote. He coached sports, chaperoned class trips and attended their parent-teacher conferences and religious sacraments. Seidle’s younger half-brother provided photos of Seidle with his kids at a wrestling match, a soccer game, in an ice cream shop.
“There were many good times,” Seidle wrote. “To most people on the outside, we had the perfect family, because we were always together. We did everything as a family…But the marriage was dysfunctional.”
And his department knew about that dysfunction.
In 2001, police responded to a screaming match that escalated to Tamara pushing Seidle, according to the prosecutor’s report.
“Problems persisted, and worsened,” Seidle wrote.
Tamara stopped working to stay home with the kids after their sixth child was born, Seidle wrote. She nearly died during the birth of their seventh child and underwent a gall bladder surgery in 2002, Seidle wrote. She lost her mother and father within a year.
“She shut down and stopped tending to her responsibilities,” Seidle wrote. Their problems deepened, but still they stuck it out.
“I grew impatient over the next couple years, and in the later part of 2004, I had an extramarital affair,” Seidle wrote. “It lasted three months. I ended it because I knew it was wrong, and did not want to continue to mislead my wife, and commit adultery.”
Seidle wrote that he believed Tamara also had an affair. They went to marital counseling.
Seidle considered a separation in 2006, he wrote, but Tamara was opposed to it. Neptune police came to their home in March that year for a verbal dispute, according to the prosecutor’s report.
“By April 2010, I’d decided to leave,” Seidle wrote. “I had told myself I would stay for the kids, and being a Catholic, divorce was frowned upon. I was making an effort to live my faith. But I reached the point I resented being around her, and even living in my home.”
He planned to leave in January 2011, wanting not to spoil the holidays. But in October 2010, Tamara told him she had breast cancer.
Seidle helped Tamara with her treatment, feeding her, helping her in and out of bed, to the toilet and shower, taking her to surgeries and chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he wrote. Seidle was photographed standing with his family for the high school graduation of their eldest son, with Tamara wearing a head covering consistent with the hair loss that comes with cancer treatment.
But after an ordeal that might draw couples closer together, the Seidles grew further apart. And then came more calls to the police.
Seidle began seeing Gloria Patricia Chavarriaga. A divorce document filed on Tamara’s behalf claimed this happened during her cancer treatment, which ended in June 2011.
Chavarriaga told Tinton Falls police she suspected Tamara once flattened four tires on Chavarriaga’s car because of who Chavarriaga was dating, according to a December 2011 report. But Tamara denied it and Chavarriaga later told police she wasn’t sure who caused the damage.
Seidle met Chavarriaga through church. Chavarriaga, 54, knew Seidle for years professionally before they were involved romantically, she told a reporter. She was a single parent and Seidle helped with her daughters. She admired the way Seidle loved his children.
“They walk straight,” Chavarriaga said of the children. “They are good kids. That says a lot when children behave because obviously, someone is teaching them the right thing.” Seidle mentored Chavarriaga’s daughter, Samantha Rittman, who is now 24 and living in Virginia Beach.
Seidle was stern with Rittman when she got in trouble as a teenager, Rittman recalled. He was supportive of Rittman when she struggled later in life following the birth of her first son.
“He never turned his back on me,” she said. “Ever.”
She recalled that Seidle was distressed about not being with his children.
“He was constantly a mess over his kids,” Rittman said. “That’s one thing, he always tried to be there for his kids.”
Rittman never expected violence from Seidle, she said. Seidle didn’t seem like that kind of person.
“I was angry for a while, I was really angry,” she said. Angry because Seidle hurt Chavarriaga. He made Chavarriaga happy and Rittman thought they’d have a future together.
“I just feel like what he did was selfish,” she said.
Seidle left Tamara in January 2012, he wrote.
“Prior to doing so, I took the six oldest (children) and spoke to them, telling them I was leaving because I was unhappy, and that their mom and I were not getting along,” he wrote. “I did nothing to embarrass either of us, and wanted to do nothing to make the children feel responsible, or be in the middle.”
Then there were two reports of domestic incidents involving Seidle in January and February that year, according to the prosecutor’s report. Tinton Falls police responded to a confrontation between Seidle and one of Chavarriaga’s daughters, according to the prosecutor’s report. Seidle provided the Press with a letter showing the girl recanting her statement to police that Seidle put his hands on her.
Six days later, Neptune Township police responded to a confrontation at the Seidle home. Seidle said he showed up to get a training document, the prosecutor’s report shows the couple got into an argument. When police arrived, Tamara made allegations of past abuse similar to claims she would make when she filed for divorce and for a restraining order. Seidle said these were lies.
Seidle said Tamara wanted to get back at him.
“She wanted revenge for me leaving,” he wrote. “She knew there were two things important to me… my children and my reputation. She wanted to take away both of those things to hurt me the way I had hurt her by leaving.”
Seidle was suspended for two days in February 2012 because his department felt he interfered with the police response. Seidle said he was trying to make sure proper protocol was followed. Seidle was sent to a police psychologist. Seidle was deemed unfit for duty.
Seidle said he told the doctor that “I was extremely upset by Tamara’s lies, and did not want to be at work during this time, as I would have trouble focusing.”
He wrote that he was found unfit because he asked to be. His unfitness was “not on any finding of psychological dysfunction, or disorder,” Seidle said.
He remained off duty until May 2012.
“I was ordered by my chief to ‘stay away’ from Tammy for my ‘own good,'” he wrote of his return to work. Then-police Chief Robert Adams could not be reached for comment.
Tamara filed for divorce in June 2013, claiming abuse. Seidle denied those claims in court and interviews.
Tamara’s allegations were made in publicly available documents that were later obtained by the Press, but the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office ignored them in its final report.
“Allegations made by Philip and Tamara Seidle in the context of their divorce or any other civil actions were not a part of this analysis, as those fall outside the purview of any law enforcement agency and cannot be verified,” the prosecutor’s report stated.
Tamara sought sole custody of the children. At the time, six were younger than 18. Seidle was ordered in October 2013 to pay $3,000 in alimony and $2,606 in child support each month, based on earnings in 2012 worth $11,930 before taxes, according to a court document. Seidle said the fight over child custody hurt him deeply.
“I couldn’t cope,” he wrote. “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate. I suffered from depression, anger, anxiety, high blood pressure. I was a mess. My emotional well-being spiraled out of control.”
Police reports show Neptune officers acted as escorts for two incidents involving the Seidles, including a custody dispute. Both Seidles and the Seidle children made note in publicly available legal filings of the practice of officers making escorts.
But Gramiccioni’s report made no mention of police escorts and set aside the calls for custody disputes, saying “they do not constitute incidents of domestic violence.”
Seidle explained how the fight over the children led to the ultimate tragedy.
“It went wrong from day one, from the minute she was allowed to keep the children away from me,” Seidle said. “That’s where it went wrong. It was just a continuum. There was a buildup and a buildup and a buildup… I love my children, my children were everything to me, they were my life. More than anything in the world I cared about my children and it was important for me to be a father to them. I wanted to be the father that I never had.”
Seidle provided notes from a psychologist, Raymond Hanbury, who counseled Seidle and documented his struggle starting in 2012, after he was found unfit for duty by a department psychologist. Hanbury didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.
“He does get emotional when he talks about his lack of contact with the children because Tammy makes it difficult,” Hanbury wrote in an entry dated March 28, 2012.
Hanbury wrote in May 2014 that Seidle’s issues with Tamara, the children and the divorce appeared to be affecting the officer’s performance at work. Hanbury shared findings with another psychologist, who worked for Seidle’s department, according to legal testimony from current Neptune Police Chief James Hunt.
Seidle “was very emotional and tearful when he was talking about his relationship with the children,” Hanbury wrote in November 2014.
“Divorce is finalized,” Hanbury wrote in an entry two weeks before the killing. “However, he was upset with Tammy because she reportedly threw his personal items out. They include Navy papers, training certificates and personal items that meant something to him.”
“‘But they’re gone,'” the psychologist wrote, apparently quoting Seidle. “‘I need to focus on the children.'”
In an undated final entry, Hanbury wrote: “On June 16, Phil shot his wife, fatal, and was arrested. There were no indications or signs of something like this to happen. He denied in sessions that he would do anything to jeopardize his being with the children, especially the younger ones.”
Seidle dismissed the effectiveness of the therapy.
“Sending me to counseling was stitching up a wound week to week, to have her rip it open every time,” Seidle wrote. “I would go to counseling to talk about what she did, and how it upset me, to leave the sessions and have her do the same thing through to the next session. So where was the healing to take place? Tell me? Every day I missed being a part of my children’s lives was a day neither her, nor anyone else could give me back. There was no amount of money, or anything else she could compensate me with for the loss of that time. Missing my son’s first communion, because she couldn’t have the courtesy to tell me, because she couldn’t swallow her gall, couldn’t ever be gotten back. Having people constantly tell me about events my children participated in, that I missed simply for her inability to be civil, or of accomplishments they had, that she wouldn’t tell me about for her spite, couldn’t in a lifetime be made up for. My children would never be able to say, ‘my dad was always there.’ Not because I left, but for her malice.”
The dispute over child custody led to more police calls to the Seidle home, departmental discipline for Seidle and rising tension between the Seidles.
“If they say that when you find out someone’s cheating on you – your husband or your wife is cheating on you, you can be driven to violence – you can’t be driven to violence when your children are taken away from you and kept away from you until the point where finally, one day, you just snap?” Seidle asked. “Doesn’t matter whether I was a cop or not, any man would have done the same thing, would have felt the same way.”
Many knew of Seidle’s issues
Local law enforcement – from fellow officers to the prosecutor’s office – were long aware of problems in the Seidle household.
Seidle said his colleagues knew of his troubles.
Capt. Lawrence Fisher “was there for me in every way during this whole ordeal,” Seidle said. “He saw me crying and things that went on with me emotionally when nobody else was around.” Fisher could not be reached for comment.
Seidle said department supervisors knew of his problems.
“The line supervisors, they were all aware,” Seidle said. “They knew what was going on, they knew that there were problems…you know there were times that I came to work late. I reported late because I had to be, I was in court. I had to be in court. And then just all the police reports that I made. And I spoke to them constantly.”
Over a period of two years, “my performance suffered, and I received poor evaluations for what was described as poor decision making (lack of focus). On the evaluations they repeatedly indicated I was an outstanding officer with a good reputation, but my performance was suffering due to personal problems.”
Seidle’s chief knew.
Police Chief Hunt took over in September 2014 from Chief Adams, who retired.
In legal testimony, Hunt said he became aware of Seidle’s issues before the shooting.
“He didn’t disclose in depth that he was having – it was kind of everyone knew he was having problems,” Hunt said. “He was close to certain officers in the police department, but he didn’t come to me and say hey, Chief, I am having major league problems.”
Hunt said in the deposition: “Just through our investigations into this and internal affair investigation is where we learned what the major problems were.”
Hunt described three issues with Seidle at work: one in which he “screwed up” with evidence, one in which he “screwed up the readings” on a breathalyzer test, causing the department to dismiss a DWI case, and the incident in which he argued with township police officers who responded to a custody dispute between him and Tamara.
For those issues, Seidle agreed that he would take a 30-day suspension, Hunt said in the deposition, spreading that time off over one week per month for six months. Seidle agreed that he’d keep seeing his psychologist and that his psychologist would report back to a township doctor.
The prosecutor’s report acknowledged the incident in which Seidle argued with officers, and his suspension, but didn’t mention the issue Seidle had with evidence or the botched DWI case.
Punitive measures like suspensions and disarmament compounded the stress he was under, Seidle said. The punishments hindered his ability to pay child support, alimony and his own bills because suspensions cut his six-figure pay, he said. He said he leaned on Capt. Fisher for sympathy and, at one point, to pay the rent.
His department’s reactions didn’t address the real problem, he said from prison – stress related to his troubled access to his children.
“The chief thought the answer was to punish me,” Seidle said. “You know, if I forgot to do something or he saw me under stress – and he knew why – but his answer was: punish Phil and then that’s going to make him, you know, somehow magically not, or make me perform or do better; when the problem wasn’t with me not wanting to do it or not being able to, it was the fact that I was under stress and I was just having trouble coping. Having trouble with what was going on in my personal life. And he knew that, he knew that.”
In one incident about 11 months before the shooting, Seidle approached two of his children at their job at a snack stand on the Ocean Grove boardwalk. He said one of his daughters hadn’t been returning his calls. He told the Press that he told the 16-year-old he wanted her to call him, and if she didn’t there would be “consequences.”
The teen’s employer called police, according to the prosecutor’s office report. Police interviewed the children, who said they didn’t want a relationship with Seidle, according to the report.
Seidle said he was called into Hunt’s office to talk about the incident and that the chief told Seidle his daughter accused Seidle of harassing her at her job. Seidle felt the kids had been put up to this by Tamara.
Seidle became frustrated.
“I’m tired of being intimidated and threatened by my wife every time we have a disagreement or something goes on between the kids,” he recalled telling the chief.
So, he said he was retiring.
“I gave him my badge and my gun and I told him: ‘that’s it, I’m going to resign because I’m just fed up,'” Seidle said.
Afterward, he said he talked to two colleagues, Capt. Fisher and Sgt. J. Hunter Ellison. Ellison also couldn’t be reached for comment. Fisher would later respond to the scene the day Seidle shot Tamara.
“…They all tried to convince me not to leave, they told me it wasn’t a good idea,” Seidle said. Seidle was cleared by a psychologist after an evaluation in August 2014.
He returned and the department gave him back his .40 Glock.
Other departments knew
Trouble spread beyond Neptune.
In Tinton Falls one night in 2012, Tamara admitted she had been drinking and followed Seidle to the gym because she thought he was headed to see his mistress. Seidle called the police, she left by the time they arrived and Seidle declined to file a complaint.
The responding Tinton Falls officer contacted Sgt. Doug McEntegart. McEntegart spoke by phone with a Neptune Township lieutenant, a police report shows.
“He informed me that there has been going domestic incidents with the Seidles, and after a brief discussion on that, I assured the lieutenant that a report for harassment would be written documenting the incident,” McEntegart wrote.
Both McEntegart and the Neptune lieutenant notified higher-ranking officers. McEntegart also briefed an assistant Monmouth County prosecutor. In an interview, First Assistant Prosecutor Lori Linskey said this was a police officer asking for legal advice, which doesn’t mean a case was opened by the prosecutor’s office.
In Asbury Park the year before the shooting, Seidle said he and Tamara got into a custody dispute at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a church and school where Seidle would later confront Tamara the day she died.
The argument prompted an Asbury Park police response, according to Seidle. He provided a copy of a report showing a custody dispute at the school on the date Seidle claimed it happened, though the report doesn’t name who was involved in the dispute. The city denied having access to the document.
The next day, Seidle filed for a domestic violence civil complaint and temporary restraining order, detailing the custody dispute and alleging past abuse by Tamara.
Prosecutor’s office knew of Seidle drama
At least three times, the Seidle drama reached as high as the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the top law-enforcement agency in the county.
In addition to being notified about the Tinton Falls incident, the prosecutor’s office was notified of the 2012 argument at the Seidle home in which Tamara alleged past abuse and they signed off when Seidle was later rearmed.
The prosecutor’s office was notified of a 2014 incident in which Tamara reported to police that Seidle was harassing her, then Seidle “began screaming profanities at the officers who responded,” according to the prosecutor’s report.
Their report shows Seidle wasn’t disarmed after this incident. Seidle told the Press that his gun was taken away again around this time.
File kept secret
Neptune township officials refuse to release documents showing what they knew about Seidle’s problems and when they knew it.
The township denied the Press access to the 682-page internal affairs report on Seidle on the grounds that it was a confidential employee record. Seidle’s internal affairs history was not released in Gramiccioni’s report.
The Press sued, saying the public deserves to see the documents to examine how Seidle’s case was handled by police in the years leading up to the shooting.
In a Nov. 3 hearing, Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lisa P. Thornton remarked on the number of internal affairs incidents.
“As a lay person, it seems to me like an excessive amount,” she said.
While his IA file remains secret, documents did emerge publicly showing two citizens complained in 2004 that Seidle used excessive force during arrests, according to documents attached to a lawsuit alleging excessive force during a 2015 arrest. That lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge and Seidle was cleared by his department in the 2015 incident.
One complaint in 2004 claims Seidle threw a man on top of the police cruiser then punched him in the jaw and kicked him in the ribs. The second claims he hit a man on a bicycle with his police car then kneed and kicked him. The official outcomes of those complaints remain obscured by Neptune’s denial of records. These complaints aren’t mentioned in Gramiccioni’s report.
“I never, you know, was written up or had any incidents where I abused my authority or where I used excessive force against someone,” Seidle said generally about his discipline. “I never was punished for anything like that.”
A reporter sought official copies of documents provided by Seidle and his half-brother, though many were denied by the government.
In addition to denying the hundreds of pages of Seidle’s internal affairs history, Neptune also denied access to 15 police reports naming Seidle, including 11 which also name Tamara, saying they are “criminal investigatory reports.” The purported criminal investigations were dated within the last four years of Seidle’s career. Seven of the police reports correspond with short incident reports the township did provide which indicate the obscured documents relate to custody disputes.
Seidle insists he didn’t plan to kill his wife.
The morning of June 16, 2015, Seidle said he drove past the family’s house. He had a few hours before he had to report to duty that day and he was going to take his girl to buy a dress for a father-daughter dance on Father’s Day.
He was supposed to pick up their youngest daughter at the family home on Heritage Court but she didn’t come outside. Tamara was already at work.
A congratulations banner was still over the door. The family threw a party the weekend before for two of the eldest children. They were the first in Seidle’s lineage to graduate from college. Seidle, though, was suspicious of a car with Georgia plates in the driveway. He jotted down the license plate number. He assumed it was her boyfriend.
He called Tamara.
“Whose car is that in the driveway?” He asked.
“None of your business,” he recalled Tamara saying.
“It is my business. If this guy is living there, that’s a problem,” Seidle said.
He said she wasn’t supposed to have someone living there if he’s paying alimony. And he was concerned about another man around their children.
Seidle’s eldest daughter dropped his youngest daughter off at his home on Walnut Street in Neptune. Seidle deduced that a man had been spending time with Tamara and the children. The kids had mentioned his last name before, his parents spent time with the kids. He was at the graduation party.
“Then all of this started just hitting me,” Seidle said. “That was where the emotion started spiraling out of control.”
Seidle left his home with his 7-year-old daughter and his gun belt. The off-duty 6-foot-4, 230- pound police sergeant was dressed in a peach polo shirt, navy shorts and brown sandals on the sunny day. He wore a Bluetooth earpiece.
He called Tamara as he was walking out of his home.
“Is this guy living there?” He asked.
She was busy and couldn’t talk, Seidle recalled.
“If he’s living there, there’s going to be a f—— problem,” Seidle said.
“I’ve got to go,” Tamara replied, he said. She told Seidle that one of their children would “have a father with or without you.”
Seidle was shocked and hung up the phone.
Tamara told her boyfriend and her eldest daughter that Seidle threatened to kill her, according to grand jury testimony Seidle provided to the Press.
Seidle said he drove up Route 18 in his silver Honda Pilot, heading toward Monmouth Mall.
He spoke to his daughter, who confirmed Tamara’s boyfriend had been staying at the house for two weeks.
Seidle slid into an emotional tailspin because her boyfriend was being left alone with Seidle’s kids, “taking over the role of the father,” Seidle said.
Seidle thought he would never get his kids back.
“I believed she was jeopardizing my children’s safety, as well as my ability to repair my relationship with them,” he wrote.
He said he called Tamara several times.
She texted him back: “What do you want.”
Seidle cut off the highway at Route 66 and drove to the church.
“She didn’t answer the phone,” Seidle said. “I said ‘OK, well if she won’t answer the phone I’m gonna go to the job and I’ll talk to her and get her to talk to me and see what’s going on.'”
He said he didn’t expect to find her in the parking lot. When he saw her there, he thought they would talk, but she pulled away in her car.
“Everything just went downhill from there,” Seidle said. “I just blacked out. Spiraled. My emotions were – I just got overloaded with the emotions.”
Seidle said he doesn’t remember what happened next.
“Just emotionally it all just piled up on me,” he said. “And I just broke down and just, I don’t know, just flew off the handle and just lost my mind.”
He chased her west on First Avenue, south on Central and west on Asbury Avenue, grand jury testimony shows. His car struck her car near Jimmy’s Restaurant, knocking off the front license plate of Seidle’s SUV.
Three people lingered on their home porch on Sewall Avenue in Asbury Park. A worker ate a sandwich in his nearby car. An employee at a plumbing supply company down the street retrieved tools from a truck.
Responding to a fender bender on the corner, Asbury Park Patrol Officer Ahmed Lawson followed the routine procedures, asking for driver’s license, insurance and registration.
Then a car horn, screeching tires. The two Seidle cars tore around the corner of Ridge Avenue, nearly hitting Lawson as he jumped out of the way.
Seidle’s SUV smashed into the rear of Tamara’s black sedan, ramming it into another parked car.
“Once he exited the vehicle, he began shooting,” Lawson told investigators.
The camera on Lawson’s patrol car recorded the sounds of the shooting. Eight shots can be heard in the video in quick succession, then a ninth shot.
Lawson can be seen in video ducking behind his patrol car, away from Seidle. Prosecutor Gramiccioni said Lawson was too far away to effectively shoot Seidle. Lawson recognized him. He begged for Seidle to drop his weapon.
“Hey Phil! Drop that gun Phil!” Lawson yelled before ducking back behind his patrol car. Seidle’s voice can be heard on the video.
“Now what!?” Seidle shouts.
Lawson gave the location over the radio, shouting for backup, noting that Seidle had the gun to his head and that he was a sergeant from Neptune. Seidle’s daughter ran to responding officers and Asbury Park police Capt. Marshawn Love. Love had been their neighbor for more than a decade and recognized the cars as belonging to the Seidles. He drove Seidle’s daughter away from the scene.
Seidle fired another volley of four shots through the front window two minutes after the first. He fired all but one round in the magazine of his Glock.
With his left hand, Seidle held the gun to his head. For about 45 minutes, officers held their fire, trying to coax Seidle into surrendering. He shouted profanity, furious about being kept apart from his nine children.
With his right hand, he typed a text message to the children:
Your mother is dead because of her actions… Goodbye forever.
Nearly 70 officers from four agencies surrounded Seidle within minutes.
Officers begged Seidle to put the gun down, many calling to him by his first name.
A Monmouth County prosecutor’s detective, Asbury Park Detective Lt. David DeSane and another officer removed Tamara from her car, the grand jury testimony shows.
She was pronounced dead minutes later at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
Neptune Capt. Fisher pleaded with Seidle to drop his gun, the grand jury testimony shows. Fisher had worked with Seidle for years. Seidle said Fisher had seen him cry.
“Him and I were very close over the years,” Seidle said. “And I wanted to kill myself. But at that moment I just felt like I couldn’t do it because him and I were very close and I didn’t want to leave him with that memory.”
“You owe me that much,” Seidle recalled Fisher saying at the scene. Officers told Seidle if he dropped the gun he would get to see his kids.
DeSane left the scene to get Seidle’s kids, sending a photo of them to another detective who remained at the scene. That detective slid his phone to Seidle.
They said they’d take his kids to a prosecutor’s satellite office in Asbury Park. Ten minutes later, they showed him another photo of the children.
Seidle lowered his gun. He placed it on the ground. Seidle and Fisher embraced.
“When it was all over, I just felt like falling out, like collapsing,” Seidle said. “And I remember when he came, when he came into the street I just, I don’t know, I fell into his arms.”
Seidle was taken to the prosecutor’s outpost in Asbury Park and escorted into a conference room, grand jury testimony shows.
The prosecutor’s detective explained that he would let Seidle speak to the children, but Seidle couldn’t mention what he did to their mother.
He was placed in a chair and given a bottle of water. They led his children into the room in two groups.
For years, Seidle had fought in court to get more time with his kids. The custody disputes with Tamara derailed his career. The thought that another man was moving into their lives triggered a breakdown.
Seidle had wanted to be the father figure he never had.
But there he was, arrested on a murder charge the week of Father’s Day.
Seidle and the children exchanged few words.
“I just told them that I love them and that I only wanted to have a relationship with them and that I was sorry,” he said.
Then he was led away to jail.
That was their last conversation.
‘I will walk out of these walls one day’
Seidle was taken to the Monmouth County Jail a few miles away in Freehold. His clothing, his photograph and his fingerprints were taken. It was a process the veteran cop had performed on detainees many times, but now Seidle was on the other side. Besides training at the police academy, he said that was the only day he had been in handcuffs.
“All of it was unbelievable,” he said.
As reality sank in for Seidle in his cell, shock and outrage radiated from Sewall Avenue, making headlines across the region.
The first thing he did in jail was ask for a priest. Seidle said he confessed his sin and asked for absolution.
The week after the shooting, hundreds of people attended Tamara’s Catholic funeral, where her nine children followed her casket out of a church about a mile from the crime scene. The children later filed a lawsuit alleging negligence by the law enforcement agencies responsible for overseeing Seidle and responding to the shooting. A notice of claim showed they are seeking $10 million in damages. Neptune, Asbury Park and Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit.
These days, Seidle is locked alone in a prison cell. He is let out for a few hours each day to perform tasks as a “runner,” passing out juice and hot water to inmates, collecting their trash after dinner, picking up their laundry. He takes an antidepressant. He gets recreation time with other inmates, indoors, separated in individual cages with a port through which they can play cards or chess.
He telephones Chavarriaga, who he called his “partner,” in the morning and evening. He sleeps well at night. He thinks about his children, especially on holidays and birthdays.He unsuccessfully appealed his sentence. He said he didn’t deserve 30 years, but declined to say what would have been an appropriate sentence.
“This firm defended Phil Seidle under extremely difficult circumstances to the very best of our ability,” said his attorney, Edward Bertucio. “He avoided a murder conviction with a possibility of a sentence he could not outlive. Instead we negotiated aggravated manslaughter and the sentence he received was lengthy. We appealed it. We did everything we could for him. I wish him the very best.”
Seidle found fault in how many people treated him. He said his ex-wife’s abuse claims were lies, he dismissed his first divorce attorney, he felt the divorce judge merely warned Tamara for violations of orders, he described how his police chief’s punishments just created more stress for him.
But he doesn’t pass blame for the killing.
“I carry the guilt every day of what I’ve done, the life I’ve taken, and the lives I’ve ruined,” he wrote. “I know I’ve written a lot about how I was wronged, and what I went through. I can sound like I’m trying to justify what I’ve done. That’s not at all true. I want you to know I hate what I did. I am horrified and deeply saddened. It is reprehensible, and unjustifiable. I killed the woman who at one point I loved, and even though I hated what she did to me, I didn’t hate her. I still cared for her as the person who I spent almost twenty-two years raising nine beautiful children with. Although our marriage failed, there were many good times.”
Seidle hopes someday he can apologize directly to his children.
“I don’t expect them to forgive me,” he said. “But I just want them to know how sorry I am.”
He said he does believe in an afterlife.
“I believe that God forgives us for all of our sins, especially when we ask him,” he said. “And I think that one day, you know, I will have the opportunity to tell Tamara, hopefully, how sorry I am for what I did to her.”
Seidle will become eligible for parole in December 2040, when he’ll be 76. He plans to make it there.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Seidle said. “I will walk out of these walls one day.”