By LAUREN SILVER
CANTONMENT, Fla. (Court TV) — A Florida jury has found a man not guilty of the murder of his wife more than twenty years ago.
This was the second trial, following a 2022 mistrial, for Gregory Paul Malarik, who was charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the death of his wife, Sherri Lynn Malarik, in 2001. Sherri’s body was found in her minivan parked outside of a shopping center on Sept. 22, 2001, after she disappeared the night before.
The medical examiner ruled Sherri’s death a homicide and said she had been killed by two gunshot wounds to the head with a .25 caliber handgun. Her body was found “crumpled on the floorboard of the family minivan,” police said.
In an arrest affidavit obtained by Court TV, investigators said that Gregory had been having an affair with a woman named Jennifer Spohn, whom he had met while he was deployed overseas with the US Navy. Upon his return from deployment, Gregory continued his affair with Spohn, who also would frequently come to the house to babysit the Malariks’ children.
The Malariks were a blended family. Sherri’s son, Jacob, told Court TV that in 2001 the couple had been married for approximately seven years and had met while they were both stationed in Bermuda with the Navy. When they married, Sherri had Jacob, who was four, and Gregory had a four-year-old son, also named Gregory. After the pair married, they had three more children together: Jay, Jamie and Tera, who were all under age six when their mother was murdered.
The children were all home when the murder allegedly happened on the evening of Sept. 21, 2001, along with some of their cousins. One cousin, Lisa Leake, the daughter of Sherri’s sister, told police that Sherri’s husband had called her outside, and shortly after seeing her go into the yard Leake said that she “heard the sound of a ‘pop’ similar to a firecracker, after which (Gregory) came back inside, immediately took a shower and changed clothes.”
Malarik told police that he had been outside on Sept. 21, working on an air compressor, when Sherri came back and told him she was going to the store and would return shortly. He said that she took the family’s minivan and that when she had not returned by 11 p.m. he grew concerned and started calling family and police.
The case was cold until March 2022, when police interviewed Spohn again. Though she had initially told officers that she had come to the victim’s home on Sept. 21 to return a lawn mower, 20 years later she “provided conflicting information about whether or not this was the purpose and if it had been pre-arranged for her to return this mower.”
The murder weapon was never found, and Malarik has denied ever owning a .25 caliber handgun or having access to one. However, investigators maintain that more than 20 interviews or reports “show he did, in fact, possess and/or own such a firearm at the time of the homicide.”
Investigators pointed to emails sent between Gregory and Spohn, including one where the pair discussed “how to trick a polygraph” as evidence that Sherri’s murder was planned.
Malarik’s first trial ended with a mistrial in June 2022 when the jury was unable to reach a verdict after four hours of deliberation. Two notes were sent back to the judge during deliberations both said they could not reach a unanimous decision.
Both of the older children in the home, Jacob and Gregory, testified at Malarik’s first trial, and are expected to testify at his second trial as well.
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