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Friends Mourn Murdered American

January 28, 1999 GMT

MANSFIELD, N.J. (AP) _ Julie Scully was desperately seeking love, and the sultry model thought she had found it in a shipboard romance with a young Greek cruise officer.

She divorced her American husband late last year and moved to Greece last month to marry her new love, but her heart ached for her 3-year-old daughter, Katie. Ms. Scully told her family she wanted to come home. She never made it back.

Her charred, headless body was found stuffed inside a suitcase in a swamp Wednesday, and her seaman boyfriend _ George Skiadopoulos, who is charged with murder _ led police to her remains.

Julia Scully said she tried to warn her only daughter about Skiadopoulos, a man she believed all along was only after her daughter’s money. Mrs. Scully said he wanted to be a ``big shot″ in Greece and was pressuring Julie to buy a taxi business for him.

``She claimed she loved him. I told her, `This kind of loving is sick,‴ a tearful Mrs. Scully said.

Skiadopoulos, 24, showed police how he allegedly strangled the 31-year-old Ms. Scully before hurling her nude body into a swamp in Kavala in northern Greece, authorities said.

Police said he doused his lover’s body with gasoline and set her afire, then packed the former model’s corpse into a suitcase, using a hacksaw to cut off her head so the body would fit inside.

On Wednesday, a heavily guarded Skiadopoulos led police to the place where he dumped her remains. A police diver found the suitcase in 5 feet of water, and divers combed a nearby beach where Skiadopoulos told police he had thrown her head.

Athens police say Skiadopoulos _ ``blinded by his passion″ _ strangled Ms. Scully in a jealous rage Jan. 8. He was about to be drafted into the Greek army, and she had told her family two days earlier that she wanted to come home to Mansfield, 10 miles south of Trenton.

Greece authorities denounced it as ``one of the most horrible crimes ever committed in our country.″ Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., called for swift justice.

Skiadopoulos could face life in prison without parole if convicted. He was arraigned today on charges of murder, lying under oath and abuse of a corpse.

``I regret this,″ he said after leaving the offices of prosecutor Dimitris Papageorgiou.

Ms. Scully was known in Trenton for her 10 appearances as a ``Page 6 Girl,″ posing in a bikini in the Trentonian newspaper. She appeared on the show ``Hard Copy″ in 1992 in a story about the Trentonian.

Friends were at a loss to explain what attracted Ms. Scully _ a stunning, outgoing brunette _ to Skiadopoulos, a balding maintenance man who had quit his job as a petty officer on a Caribbean cruise ship and was living off her $600,000 divorce settlement.

``I think he showed so much love for her that it overwhelmed her,″ said Tracey Allen, a close friend. ``She was just so needy.″

Others saw the relationship as a star-crossed mismatch between a fun-loving young woman and a jealous manipulator. They said Ms. Scully would only call home when Skiadopoulos was away.

``It wasn’t Julie at the end,″ said Susan White. ``He pulled her away from a lot of her friends.″

Ms. Scully met Skiadopoulos in November 1997 while vacationing with her then-husband, Tim Nist. After her cruise, Skiadopoulos began calling her and faxing messages.

Several months later, she and Nist took another cruise and again saw Skiadopoulos. While still married, she began having a relationship with him in February 1998. In November, she divorced her husband, and in December she moved to Greece to marry Skiadopoulos.

In Mansfield, her family struggled to cope with the news.

``I’m just kind of numb,″ said Nist, who plans to travel to Greece to bring his ex-wife’s body home this weekend.

Mrs. Scully remembers Skiadopoulos as ``a violent man.″ He was charged with assault and allowed to return to Greece after allegedly choking Mrs. Scully during an argument last summer.

``To me, he was just evil. I tried to tell her,″ Mrs. Scully said. ``She said to me, `Mom, you read too many novels. I’m going to be around forever.‴