Family: Elderly couple murdered at Delaware cemetery visited their son’s grave daily

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BEAR, DE – Police rushed to Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear 9 days ago, on May 8, where the senseless shooting deaths of Paul and Lidia Marino occurred while visiting the grave of their son, Anthony.

Anthony passed in 2017 at the age of 54 from complications of cerebral palsy. Paul Marino was 86. His wife, Lidia, was 85. 

According to authorities, Sheldon Francis, age 29, opened fire on the couple, who were married for 61 years. Lidia Marino was pronounced dead at the scene. Paul Marino died later at the hospital.

The Marinos were from the quiet town of Elkton, Maryland, just a little over 10 miles from the cemetery where Anthony, whom they’d taken care of all of his life, was buried. Although Anthony did not serve in the military, cemetery rules allowed his father, a peacetime army veteran in the 1950s, to bury one minor child or child with disabilities at the site.   

The parents had been visiting the burial plot every day ever since his burial. 

Paul and Lidia Marino are survived by their twin sons, Ray and Paul, Jr., age 60. Ray Marino was reported to have talked about how healthy his parents were, even at their age, and that it was a daily, morning ritual to visit his brother at the cemetery. He was certain his parents had a good five or more years left in them, at least.

The family and community remained shocked over the brutal execution of the Marino couple. Ray was quoted as saying that Sheldon Francis had shot his Dad, Paul, in the back of the head, but he hadn’t been told whether or not his mother had been shot first, or if she’d seen Francis shoot her beloved husband.

Reportedly, Ray wasn’t made aware by authorities if his parents had even seen Francis at all.

Paul, Jr. has stated that nobody knows if his and Ray’s parents were able to visit Anthony’s grave one last time before they died. According to news accounts, Paul and Lidia Marino were shot halfway between the cemetery’s entrance and Anthony’s burial plot. Nobody knows if the Marino couple were coming or going.

Shortly after 12 pm, a gun battle ensued between Francis and police. Witnesses reported that Francis was wearing a dark-colored hoodie and had run into the wooded area adjacent to the cemetery.

Law enforcement authorities scoured the area for hours before finding Francis dead of a gunshot wound shortly after 4 pm. Officials have been tight-lipped about whether the gunshot was self-inflicted or a result of the gunfire exchanged with police earlier that day. No officers were injured in the gun battle.

Francis was said to have possessed a scoped rifle at the time, but shot the Marino couple with a handgun at a relatively close range.

The Delaware State Police are in charge of the investigation. A call to DSP Detective Mark Ryde of the Delaware State Homicide Unit, who is reportedly handling the Marino case, was met with his voicemail. Another call to DSP was met with a referral to their Public Information Officer, who could not be reached for comment.

As to motive, a law enforcement official who wished to remain anonymous would only state the crime was “probably random, and not a planned thing.”

Paul, Jr. reportedly went to the cemetery where Anthony is buried the day after the tragic event of his Parents’ murder unfolded. Approached by a groundskeeper who asked why he was there, Paul Jr. explained he was the brother to Anthony and the son to Paul and Lidia, who were slain the day before.

The groundskeeper reportedly talked about Paul and Lidia Marino with great fondness and extreme sadness over their vicious and unexplained homicides. He went on to mention how he knew the Marinos would be present in his cemetery when he’d see their station wagon at Anthony’s gravesite regularly.

On that tragic day, however, he also recalled an unfamiliar vehicle parked nearby. Then he reported the sound of ‘pop, pop, pop,’ and saw the man in the black hoodie, who ran into the woods, and would later be identified as Sheldon Francis, and the cold-blooded, ruthless murderer of the Marino couple.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Delaware State Police gave Paul, Jr. and Ray Marino the watch their Dad was wearing that day when he was shot. It had been a gift from the company where he worked and from where he retired in 1994.

The DSP Officer who gave the twin brothers the watch said Delaware State Police had picked it up, and it had stopped at 10:15 am, the time Paul and Lidia Marino were reportedly murdered. It hasn’t and won’t move from that time.

The surviving Marino brothers talk about how generous their parents were, with Lidia often making pots of soups and stews and pastas which she and her husband would deliver to neighbors, their family doctor, dentist, or whoever, Paul, Jr. recalled.

They also spoke fondly about how well their parents took care of Anthony, who was born with cerebral palsy and was also their youngest son. Anthony had made great strides, however, in his ability to graduate from Delaware Technical Community College with a degree in architectural drafting before his condition would become complicated by a series of mini-strokes and other medical complications later in his life.

The family worked together as a team to take care of Anthony so he could remain at home instead of being placed in a nursing home. His gravesite is beside the burial plots of his parents.

Both surviving brothers have noted the chilling effect with which they’re left having to visit their parents’ gravesites, the place where they were ironically robbed of their beautiful lives.

According to reports, Paul, Jr. so eloquently stated:

“A cemetery is supposed to be a peaceful and sacred place where you visit your lost loved ones.”


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