The words Michelle Hurley blurted out to a stranger in a bar bathroom might haunt her for the rest of her life.
According to testimony in a New Jersey courtroom this week, Hurley admitted to killing her husband on New Year’s three years ago while doling out some advice on how to have a successful relationship.
“You shouldn’t fight with your boyfriend, because I did and look what happened to me. I went too far and I killed him,” Hurley allegedly told Tina Coons.
Now Hurley is on trial for the murder, accused of choking the life out of him with a chain-link lamp cord. The bathroom confession is a key piece of evidence, with Coons taking the stand to recount the bizarre encounter, according to NJ.com
Coons told jurors she was at The Vic with a couple that got into a physical confrontation, and she and several other pals took the woman into the restroom to calm down. Hurley came out of the stall and made the shocking comment about her husband, Coons testified.
“Are you kidding me?” Coons replied to Hurley before walking out the bathroom to rejoin her party, according to testimony. If Hurley regretted opening her mouth, she didn’t show it; Coons testified she left the bathroom moments later, smiling.
Five months later, Hurley, 48, was charged with strangling husband David, 50, during an argument at their home in Bayonne, New Jersey.
As the jury began deliberating Hurley’s fate on Thursday, Coons declined to discuss the case further, saying her “part of the story is already out there.”
If convicted, Hurley faces 30 years to life in prison for what prosecutors say was a cold-blooded killing and she contends was an act of self-defense.
On Sept. 28, 2015, police responded to the couple's home around 10:30 p.m. to find David Hurley “unresponsive” with “no pulse,” his face purple and “bodily fluids and blood coming from his neck,” Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Salvatore Rozzi told The Daily Beast. He was brought to Bayonne Medical Center and died in intensive care 10 days later, authorities confirmed.
“There is clear evidence of foul play,” Rozzi said.
The next morning, Michelle Hurley, a former bank branch manager, was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a chain link lamp cord for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon regarding the lamp cord.
She was released on bail, which is how she happened to be at The Vic as the book closed on 2015. The charges against her were upgraded to include murder in May 2016 after the medical examiner released the autopsy.
“The cause of the victim's death was anoxic encephalopathy due to ligature neck compression and the manner of death was homicide," the report read.
Kathleen Theurer, Hurley’s attorney, told The Daily Beast her client did not commit murder.
“This was a tragic event but my client was just acting out of self defense,” Theurer said.
Hurley told police she was arguing with her husband and had barricaded herself in a bedroom for safety when David barged in and started to sexually assault her. In self-defense, she said, she put a cord around his neck and pulled it until he fell unconscious, then called 911.
“They were going through a divorce, but still lived in the same house in separate bedrooms. That night, Michelle called her friend that she had dinner with earlier in the night three times, the last time screaming and begging her to come over because David was throwing bottles at her,” Theurer said.
“When he started to sexually assault her, she grabbed the chain connected to the ceiling fan so he would stop.”
Theurer said statements Hurley made to police should have been inadmissible, saying she had not been read her rights.
"Based on the circumstances, based on the fact my client was surrounded by police officers in a small room, I was making the argument that she was unable to leave and that, in fact, these questions were intended to result in incriminating responses," Theurer argued during a hearing. However, Hudson County Superior Court Judge John Young denied her bid to keep the statement out of the trial.
Hurley has never divulged what she and David, who had filed for divorce a month earlier, were arguing about. But her own brother, Scott Sykowski, who took the stand against her, believes it was about money.
"They were living beyond their means," Sykowski said in court last week. “David worked at Port Authority and was making $60,000 and during the time she was taking my mother's money, they were traveling a lot, doing home improvements, gambling.”
Sykowski, who filed a lawsuit against his sister in 2014, alleges Hurley used her previous job as a branch manager at Pamrapo Savings Bank to skirt safeguards and take nearly $300,000 of their mother's money in 2007 and 2009. Their mother, Helen Elaine Sykowski, died in 2017.
“Michelle stole money from our mother and the rest of the family. I don’t know if she murdered her husband, but I know she is a thief,” Sykowski told The Daily Beast on Thursday.
After divorcing her first husband, Hurley filed for bankruptcy in 2007, court documents show. Seven years later, she left her job at the bank and opened a dog-grooming business in her basement. Her brother admitted he did not know if her business was ever profitable.
“They are two separate issues that are being combined to hurt my client,” Theurer said. “The lawsuit was brought while Michelle was in jail so she couldn’t respond to the lawsuit. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
Court records confirm that Michelle Hurley was in jail when the deadline passed in Sykowski’s lawsuit to turn over documents related to their mother’s money. In 2016, a judge ordered Hurley to pay $278,000 to her mother's estate—though Sykowski alleged in court that the money was never recovered.
As for what Hurley said in the bathroom, Coons testified that she was the only person to hear it and admitted on the stand that she didn’t immediately go to the police. Instead, she said, she went to the principal of the school where she worked, Woodrow Wilson Community School—who also happens to be David Hurley’s older sister.
The sister, Maureen Hurley-Brown, declined to comment and asked for “privacy during this difficult time.”