An Essex County man has admitted to fatally stabbing and strangling Union Township woman Diane Zaleski in 2010, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Tuesday.
Arnell Yearwood, 28, of Irvington pleaded guilty Tuesday morning before state Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Donohue and is expected to receive a term of 30 years in state prison without parole upon sentencing.
Family members discovered the body of the 54-year-old Zaleski inside her Laurana Road home on November 18, 2010, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who prosecuted the case. An autopsy by the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the cause of death to be multiple blunt-force and lacerative injuries to the head and neck, Lawlor said.
The Union County Homicide Task Force immediately launched a prolonged investigation spearheaded by task force Detective Robert Henderson; authorities conducted more than 100 interviews, yet few legitimate leads emerged. But on the one-year anniversary of Zaleski’s death, investigators released additional details about the murder to the media in an effort to bring the case back into the public eye.
Shortly thereafter, a person who lives out of the state encountered a news article about Zaleski online, with some of the details in the article matching details previously relayed to the person by Yearwood during an online conversation hosted via Facebook. The person contacted authorities in New Jersey, leading to Yearwood’s arrest on Vauxhall Road in Union on April 7, 2012.
“This case marks a prime example of the investigative power that can be generated when law enforcement, the media, and the public all embrace a common goal – in this case, justice for the victim of a horrific crime,” Park said.
Sentencing in the case has been tentatively scheduled for April 11.