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Exxon executive's body found; accused kidnappers face murder charge

NEWARK, N.J. -- The FBI confirmed Sunday that a body found in a shallow grave in the desolate Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey was that of missing Exxon International President Sidney J. Reso.

And authorities said Reso's accused kidnappers will face felony murder charges even if Reso proved to have died of a heart attack or other natural causes.

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'Whatever the evidence shows about the specific way Mr. Reso lost his life, no one can say a man abducted the way Mr. Reso was died of natural causes,' said U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff.

Arthur Seale, a former Exxon security manager, and his wife, Irene, both 45 and residents of Lebanon Township in northwest New Jersey, have been held without bail since their arrest June 19 on federal kidnapping and extortion charges.

State charges of kidnapping and felony murder will be filed Monday, Morris County Prosecutor Michael Murphy said.

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Exxon Corp., headquartered in the Dallas suburb of Irving, said the management and employees are 'deeply distressed' over Reso's 'senseless Death.'

Exxon Chairman Lawrence Rawl offered his sympathies to the family and said, 'They will be in the thoughts and prayers of all Exxon employees during this terribly difficult time.

'Sid was one of the finest men I have known who combined outstanding professional competence with humanity and warmth. He made invaluable contributions to Exxon during his 35-year career, culminating in his leadership role in the success of Exxon Company International.'

Mrs. Seale is said to have led investigators to the body, telling them he died within days of the April 29 kidnapping.

Gary Penrith, head of the Newark FBI office, refused to confirm Mrs. Seale's role. He said the discovery at 8 p.m. Saturday followed a 12- hour search in an area near the Garden State Parkway with a German Shepherd named Buffy locating the grave.

'This was a tick-infested miserable area,' Penrith said. 'You wouldn't want to either walk or camp in that area. It was possibly one of the worst places thatI've ever been in.'

A photographer who located the grave site said it was a half-mile from the Garden State Parkway in Bass River State Forest and 30 yards from one of the narrow sand roads that cross the Pines.

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Reso, 57, was abducted as he left his home in Morris Township to drive to Exxon International headquarters in Florham Park. A neighbor spotted his car, empty with the motor running, at the foot of his long driveway.

A friend of the Reso family, Sister Ruth Angelette of New Orleans, told the news media the family feared for his life because he was on medication for a heart condition.

Murphy described Reso's wife, Patricia, as 'a tower of strength' during the long wait for information on her husband. Mrs. Reso made several appeals for her husband's return.

The Seales allegedly demanded $15 million in ransom, using pay telephones and rented cars as they tried to set up a ransom drop. But authorities said they received no proof Reso was alive.

Arthur Seale, a former Hillside police officer, resigned from Exxon in 1987, taking a $60,000 buyout. As a security manager, he designed some of Exxon's programs for thwarting kidnapping and terrorist actions.

He moved his family to Hilton Head, S.C., where he and his wife hoped to do well in the resort business. They later moved to Vail, Colo., leaving behind thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, and then returned to New Jersey to live with Seale's parents.

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During his years with the Hillside police, Seale was disciplined several times for such things as striking a suspect's mother with his gun. After his return to New Jersey, he did some contract work for Intertel, an international security firm.

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