Relationships are complex and invoke the deepest of emotions. When a married couple who have a long history together begin to go their separate ways, accepting the relationship is at an end is not always easy. For one Maryland woman, the end of her relationship was signified by her husband of 18 years moving his mistress into their marital home. For a few months she played along and, bizarrely, this three-way relationship continued. Soon, however, the loss of her husband’s attention to a younger woman and these affections being paraded in front of her day after day became too much.

Anger, jealousy, betrayal….all would be expected emotions in such an environment. What is not expected is a sinister plot that would end in the murder of two people and the incarceration of three others, two just teenagers. Ann Marie Anastasi not only ended the lives of her husband and his mistress, she destroyed the life of her daughter and her boyfriend by pulling them into her plans and soliciting a gullible 18-year-old to carry out her gruesome wishes.

On 5 October 2015, police were called to a home in Lothian, Maryland with reports of a suicide.  When they arrived, 42-year-old Ann Marie Anastasi led them to her master bedroom where they found the body of her husband, 40-year-old Anthony Anastasi, with a gunshot wound to his head and handgun lying by his side. While investigating the scene, police then discovered the body of 25-year-old Jacqueline Riggs in a basement bedroom of the house. She had been stabbed repeatedly in what had clearly been a violent and bloody attack. Ann Marie Anastasi, when questioned, appeared surprised to learn of Jacqueline Riggs death. Her explanation was that her husband must have murdered his mistress in the downstairs bedroom before returning upstairs and taking his own life.

The Anastasi home

The Anastasi home.

The ballistics reports, however, told a different story. The gun found next to Anthony Anastasi’s body was not the gun that killed him, casting serious doubt on the notion that he committed suicide. Anthony Anastasi had been shot with a .380 caliber bullet, yet the handgun found next to his body was a .45 caliber gun. Furthermore, NBC Washington reported that when tested Ann Marie Anastasi’s clothes and hands were found to contain gunshot residue.

“She was instrumental, based on the investigation, in setting the .45 near the victim’s head, and that .45 did not match with the .380.”

Anthony Anastasi was having an affair with Jacqueline Riggs and moved her into the marital home a few months prior to the murders. It appeared for a period there was an active three-way relationship between the married couple and the mistress. The couple had five children together, one being a 13-year-old daughter. When police examined Ann Marie’s mobile phone, they found numerous text messages exchanged between Ann Marie, her daughter and her daughter’s 18-year-old boyfriend Gabriel Struss where they discussed the murders and how Struss had been the one who had carried them out.

Ann Marie Anastasi

Ann Marie Anastasi

When questioned by police, Struss admitted he had murdered both Anthony Anastasi and Jacqueline Riggs. All three were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and counts of second-degree murder.

At Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in December 2016, Ann Marie Anastasi entered an Alford plea, maintaining her innocence but acknowledging there is enough evidence against her to secure a conviction. An Alford plea has the same effect as a guilty plea. In mitigation, Ann Marie Anastasi’s defense attorney presented a case of abuse within the home, highlighting that Ann Marie had lived a life of “constant abuse, beatings, and threats against her and her children.” The judge stated that while he believed abuse may have taken place inside the house, the premeditated nature of the murders was “not a momentary reaction to an abusive action.” Furthermore, such an explanation did not provide a reason for the murder of Jacqueline Riggs.

On 9 May 2017, Ann Marie Anastasi was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

The Capital Gazette reported at the time of Ann Marie Anastasi’s sentencing that Gabriel Struss had been given the gun to kill Anthony Anastasi by Ann Marie when he arrived at the home on 4 Oct 2015, the night before the phone call to police reporting a suicide. Struss had entered the master bedroom and shot Anthony Anastasi as he slept. He then went downstairs to the basement bedroom of Jacqueline Riggs and stabbed her over 20 times with numerous further knife wounds and cuts amounting to over 80 wounds to her body.

18-year-old Gabriel Struss

18-year-old Gabriel Struss.

Described as a “weak-minded young man” Gabriel Struss was sentenced to 60 years in jail for carrying out the murders. His defense attorneys said he had been manipulated by Ann Marie and her daughter into killing the two victims, fully believing both women were being abused inside the house. “The case was just horrific. But to callously, willfully slaughter two people… I don’t know how you get to that point.” the judge told him at his sentencing. The daughter, being just 13-years-old at the time of the murders, has been charged as a juvenile and her court records are therefore sealed.

One woman’s desire to remove her husband and his lover from her life was so strong it seemed that manipulating her young daughter and her boyfriend into helping her didn’t seem to faze her. Not content with killing the pair herself, she encouraged and persuaded, with the help of her daughter, a young man who thought he was protecting them. His protection, however, came in the form of willfully carrying out two violent and cold-blooded murders.

After Ann Marie Anastasi’s sentencing, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams commented, “Ann Anastasi destroyed multiple lives by coldly planning these murders and manipulating children into executing her vicious plan.”