The lethal lover's triangle joining a New Jersey doctor, his young and attractive pen-pal bride, and the landscaper she'd been bedding in Route 1 hot- sheets motels intersected with a court of law five months before her murder.

Cuckold and interloper ended up face-to-face in Hopewell Township Municipal Court last Aug. 21.

The proceeding was to address a threatening call made by the landscaper, Alexander Castaneda, to the husband, Dr. Jonathan Nyce, allegedly threatening his wife, Michelle.

According to a police report of the July 23, 2003, incident, Castaneda stated twice: "I'm going to f--- her up. "

According to officials, Michelle Nyce, 34, had told police and her husband that she had broken off her affair with Castaneda two weeks earlier.

The break allegedly had come after the East Windsor landscaper allegedly called Nyce on July 10, attempting to solicit $500,000 from him for not distributing audio and video sex tapes of his adulterous spouse.

The months-long affair came to light. Nyce, 53, a Temple grad who had recently lost his job as chief executive officer of the pharmaceutical company he started, refused to pay.

But when Castaneda appeared in court a month later on Aug. 21, Nyce opted not to pursue the petty disorderly persons offense he had filed against him.

Instead, after meeting with the judge, the case was dismissed "subject to mutual restraint. "

Castaneda, aka Sergio Martinez, aka Miguel DeJesus, was ordered to have "no contact" with Nyce, his wife or the Nyce's three children.

If Castaneda was to see Michelle Nyce accidentally, he was ordered "to turn the other way!" the judge wrote on the report.

But for some reason that investigators and family members are still trying to figure, Castaneda did not turn away. And neither did Michelle Nyce.

The petite mother was found dead last weekend in her sports utility vehicle, toppled into Jacobs Creek, not far from the $1.6 million home in Hopewell, Mercer County, she shared with Jonathan Nyce.

Police have charged Nyce with her murder, alleging that he beat his wife to death by banging her head repeatedly on the floor of their garage after she returned home early last Friday following a motel tryst with Castaneda.

Police said Nyce had staged the SUV accident to cover up his crime.

Nyce stated at his video arraignment Tuesday that he had no "ill will" against his spouse, whom he met in the Philippines in 1990, after a long correspondence following an ad she had placed for an American "pen-pal. "

He also claimed self-defense to police, saying his wife had tried to attack him with a knife when he confronted her the night she returned home, a charge that Mercer County prosecutor Joe Bocchini labeled "a figment of his imagination. "

Nyce, who is being held on $1 million bail, could not be reached for comment yesterday. His lawyer, Lee Engelman, of Pennington, did not return repeated calls for comment.

Repeated attempts to reach Castaneda were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors yesterday released the document of the court proceeding, but otherwise declined comment on the case.

At a press conference Wednesday, law-enforcement officials identified jealousy as a potential motive for Nyce's alleged involvement in his wife's murder.

Yesterday, sources familiar with the cases also said investigators were looking into the Nyce family finances to determine whether money may have played a role in the crime, or in the events leading up to the murder.

Nyce had fallen on some hard economic times in the aftermath of leaving his company, Epigenesis Pharmaceuticals, which had pioneered medications to help asthma sufferers.

His lawyer said earlier that Nyce's house was heavily mortgaged.

There were also reports that Nyce had closed his wife's bank accounts and had cut back on the money he gave her to send back to her family in the Philippines - one of the reasons given for why she took a job at Macy's at the nearby Quaker Bridge Mall. Relatives in the Philippines told reporters that Michelle Nyce had been considering filing for divorce, though officials said there was no record of paperwork being filed.

Typically, investigators would be expected to review financial documents such as life insurance policies that may have existed in the name of Nyce's wife.

The couple’s children, the innocent victims of a lethal lover’s triangle, are staying with Nyce’s parents in Collegeville, Montgomery County. *