A Merrick man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an indictment charging him with murder and strangulation in the death of his wife of 37 years.
Police previously alleged John Gerges, 60, put his hands around the neck of his physically disabled spouse and asphyxiated her after an early morning argument as he was trying to fix a sink on Feb. 22.
He faces up to 25 years to life in prison if found guilty of the second-degree murder charge against him in the death of Marvat Gerges, who was 58.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Tammy S. Robbins presided over Gerges’ virtual arraignment Wednesday, with the defendant remaining at Nassau’s jail for the proceeding as the parties involved in the court case connected via Skype video conference.
She continued Gerges’ remand status at the jail, denying a defense bail application, according to Gerges’ attorney, Ira Weissman.
The allegations "represent the tragedy of family violence," Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said Wednesday in a statement, adding: "My heart goes out to Mrs. Gerges’ son and other family members as they continue to mourn the loss of Marvat."
In February, Gerges professed his innocence as detectives led him out of Nassau police headquarters to go to court after his arrest. He also said he had suffered “years of abuse,” but the homicide squad commander said then there was “no indication of that.”
However, Weissman also said Wednesday in an interview after his client's arraignment that the man had been physically and verbally abused by his wife, who had struggled with rheumatoid arthritis for two decades.
“My understanding from the family is that his wife was abusive, not only physically — she would hit him and slap him — but verbally abusive. That could have been born out of her being sick,” Weissman added.
The Central Islip defense attorney said he hadn’t seen all the evidence in the case. However, he said his client had cooperated with police, telling them he thought she had died of a heart attack.
“He was interrogated for several hours by the detectives and denied causing her death,” Weissman said of Gerges.
The lawyer said Gerges had no arrest record, had an associate degree in mechanical engineering and worked for Good Housekeeping magazine for 27 years as a product tester before taking time off in the past few months before his wife’s death to care for her.
Police have said the couple’s 32-year-old son, who also lives in the family’s Lindgren Street residence, heard his parents arguing as he was leaving for work on the day of his mother's slaying.
When the son returned home from his security guard job in Queens about 2:30 p.m., he called 911 after finding his homebound mother on a guest room bed with marks around her neck, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Police have said the woman was dead already.
John Gerges wasn’t home at that time, according to authorities, who said police questioned him and arrested him when he came home the next day.
Police said the married couple often had fights but there was no record of officers going to their home for domestic disputes.