Former Delaware Senate candidate killed in apparent murder-suicide

Former state Senate candidate and University of Delaware communications manager Meredith Chapman was killed in Pennsylvania’s Radnor Township Monday night in an apparent “murder-suicide.”

Radnor Police say the evidence at the crime scene indicates a suspect identified as Jennair Gerardot, 47, of Wilmington broke into Ms. Chapman’s residence on Lowrys Lane in Bryn Mawr where she waited to ambush and kill Ms. Chapman. The police suspect the motive was related to an alleged affair Ms. Chapman had been having with Ms. Gerardot’s husband, Mark Gerardot, 49. Police noted that the 33-year-old Ms. Chapman was new to the area and had just moved in.

Meredith Chapman

“You had a man who was married who was having an affair with this other woman (Ms. Chapman), and the wife (Ms. Gerardot) knew about it,” said Radnor Police superintendent Bill Colarulo at a Tuesday press conference.

“This was a calculated, planned attack. She (Ms. Gerardot) broke into the house, lying in wait and shot her (Ms. Chapman) as soon as she walked in and then shot herself. There were emails and text messages indicating what she had planned to do, and detectives are still sorting all that out.”

Police say officers were dispatched to the crime scene at 7:05 p.m. Monday and met Mr. Gerardot in the driveway. He told officers, “I think my wife is inside.”

“We think the husband was in the area under the belief that he was meeting the other woman (Ms. Chapman) for dinner,” said Superintendent Colarulo. “When she didn’t show up, that’s when he got concerned and went over to the house.”

Upon entering the residence, police say officers quickly located the two deceased females who had each sustained a single fatal gunshot wound to the head. They also recovered a Taurus Tracker .357 revolver that had been fired twice.

Police report that a glass pane was broken out, but the shards had been cleaned up. Detectives believe this was done by Ms. Gerardot to conceal her entry and catch Ms. Chapman by surprise.

Officers also found a bag, believed to belong to Ms. Gerardot that contained a wig and clothing. It’s suspected that this was to disguise her during entry. There were no extra vehicles on site, so it’s believed Ms. Gerardot arrived via public transit — either by train or Uber. Because there were no direct witnesses, police say they’ve yet to confirm those suspicions.

Mr. Gerardot has been cooperating fully with authorities and a secondary investigation is currently underway, according to police.

Outpouring of condolences

Ms. Chapman had been working at UD as director for digital communications until March when she took a job as assistant vice president of marketing and creative services at Villanova University.

Villanova University spokesman Jonathan Gust confirmed that Ms. Chapman had recently begun working at the institution.

“Villanova University was informed last night about the death of Meredith Chapman,” he said. “Our hearts are broken by the devastating loss of our new colleague. The thoughts and prayers of the entire university community are with her family, friends and colleagues during this extremely difficult time.”

Ms. Chapman was married to Newark City Councilman Luke Chapman.

Ms. Chapman had a run as a Republican in 2016 for the 8th Senatorial District held since 1990 by Democrat David Sokola. In a statement on Tuesday, Sen. Sokola — who retained his seat in the election — expressed “deep sadness” at the loss of “such a promising young woman’s life.”

“I’ve always respected my opponents and Meredith was certainly no exception,” he said. “She was sharp, hard working and motivated by a sincere desire to serve her community. She was bound for great things and it’s tragic for that light to go out so soon. I’ve also had the privilege to work with her husband, Luke, over the years, and he especially is in our hearts today. We wish him strength, peace, and privacy in what we know is an incredibly difficult and painful time.”

Politicians in the state were united in their well wishes upon hearing the news. The Delaware Senate observed a moment of silence for Ms. Chapman on Tuesday during their session.

The Delaware State Senate Republican Caucus released a statement expressing their “great sadness.”

“We got to know Meredith very well during her run for state Senate in 2016, and we all appreciated her zest for life, her deeply held values and her strong commitment to serving her community,” read the statement.

“We had no doubt she would have been an outstanding member of our caucus, and she left a lasting impact on all of us. She will be greatly missed by many, and our deepest condolences go out to her family, as well as the University of Delaware and Newark communities that she served so well for so long.”

Erik Raser-Schramm, chairman of the Delaware Democratic Party, also shared his party’s thoughts.

“Like so many Delawareans touched by Meredith, I am devastated to learn of the tragic loss of a dear friend,” he said in a statement.

“In the hours since receiving the news, it has been impossible for me to imagine our Delaware without someone so transcendent and committed to service. Meredith’s incredible skill as a communicator, paired with a natural effervescence and love of people, made Newark and the University of Delaware a better place and more closely knit community. My thoughts and prayers go out to Luke, to Meredith’s family and friends, and to everyone who was fortunate enough to know her. May her light forever shine brightly as we commit to preserving her legacy by coming together to find common ground, lifting up our communities, and doing right by our neighbors.”

Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel also shared his “deepest condolences” with Ms. Chapman’s family and friends.

“Meredith had an incredible and unmatched drive to help others and make a difference in her community and even those who did not know her have suffered a great loss today,” he said in a statement. “I pray that in this time of grieving that God will comfort and give strength to persevere and that we may have even a fraction of her energy and enthusiasm to make this world a better place.”

UD spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett said Ms. Chapman’s former colleagues were “heartbroken” upon hearing the news.

“Everyone who knew and worked with Meredith is heartbroken,” she said. “As a proud alumna of UD, her commitment to her work was exceeded only by her boundless energy. She believed earnestly in the power of communication to bring people together, whether to achieve their collective goals or simply to share their stories. We will miss her.”

In her own words, Ms. Chapman. who also served as communications manager for then-U.S. Rep. Michael Castle, appeared to believe strongly in communication:

“Six months ago when I entered the race for the 8th District of the Delaware state Senate, it was to be the Champion for Change our community and state desperately need,” she wrote in a Facebook post in 2016.

“Following in the footsteps of my former boss and mentor Gov. Mike Castle, I committed to upholding two sets of principles: putting people over party and embracing communication and compromise.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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