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Bus Executive Faces Murder Charges

February 2, 1998 GMT

STUART, Fla. (AP) _ Their long association began on a yellow school bus: Frank Black behind the wheel and Alan Mackerley, a high schooler, eager to learn the bus business.

They became friends, with Mackerley introducing Black to the woman he eventually would marry. But their relationship deteriorated as the men challenged each other for bus contracts in New Jersey school districts.

Over four decades of competition, they became bitter rivals whose contempt for each other grew so intense it drove Mackerley to allegedly kill Black. Prosecutors say Mackerly kidnapped, drugged and shot him before dumping his plastic-wrapped body into the ocean.

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Mackerly, 54, owner of Byram Bus Line, now is on trial for kidnapping and first-degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Black, 58, flew from Newark, N.J., to West Palm beach on Feb. 24, 1996. He told his daughters he was going to meet with Mia Giordano, a woman who had called him several times with an enticing deal to sell 60 vans to Chile.

He never returned, and his body has not been found.

During her opening statement last week, defense attorney Mycki Ratzan conceded that Black was dead _ something Mackerley had not previously acknowledged.

She also admitted that Giordano was actually Mackerley’s girlfriend, Lisa Costello, who has been jailed since June 1996 for refusing to tell investigators what she knows. She has not been charged.

But Ratzan insisted Mackerley was not present when Black died, that he did not die as the result of a criminal act and called the state’s theory of murder ``preposterous.″ She did not say how the defense believes Black died.

Investigators looking into Black’s disappearance quickly focused their attention on his business associates, who frequently took exception to the way Black undercut competition in Sussex County, N.J.

Telephone records revealed at least a dozen calls from the homes of Mackerley and Costello were made to Black in the days before his disappearance. The defense said Mackerley, 54, simply wanted to get in touch with Black to discuss buying his business.

``It was business. It wasn’t personal,″ Ratzan said.

With no eyewitness or murder weapon or body, the state’s case rests almost entirely on the testimony of Bill Anderson, Mackerley’s former best friend who says Mackerley confessed to killing Black.

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Defense attorneys were expected to begin cross-examining Anderson today. Based on his testimony Friday, prosecutors believe Black was drugged and taken to Mackerley’s home.

``Alan said he grabbed him in a headlock. He said he shot him in the head, turning his face away to avoid debris or spatter,″ Anderson said. ``He was surprised at how much blood there was. He said it got all over the place _ the walls, the ceiling, the floor.″

According to Anderson, Mackerley wrapped Black’s body, his belongings, the gun and some weights into plastic and dumped it 12 to 22 miles offshore. Mackerley had trouble getting the decomposing body to sink because of the gases it had created, so he dragged it back to the boat and stabbed it several times with a knife.

``It had a horrible, horrible odor,″ Anderson said Mackerley told him. ``(He said) he knew that Frank Black was rotten, but he had no idea he was that rotten. And he laughed about it.″

The defense has maintained Anderson is an experienced liar and recovering alcoholic, who could be trying to exact revenge on Mackerley for a 10-year affair he had with Anderson’s wife.