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Father held in wife's fatal beating

Their 7-year-old son watched as the woman was punched and tried to help, a prosecutor said.

As her husband was allegedly beating her to death, a Conshohocken woman told her 7-year-old son - whose attempts to intervene were foiled - that she loved him, police said yesterday.

Officers responded on Sunday to a 2:14 p.m. 911 call and found Bernadette Giongo, 42, bloodied and lifeless on the kitchen floor of the home she shared with her husband, Joseph Vincent Giongo, 44, and three sons, ages 7, 10 and 18.

Joseph Giongo was taken into custody yesterday at 12:45 a.m. while walking along Butler Pike in Plymouth Township, said Risa Vetri Ferman, Montgomery County's first assistant district attorney. He was arraigned on murder charges and taken to the Montgomery County jail to await a Dec. 27 preliminary hearing.

Ferman said the youngest son told police that his father became angry Saturday night over the cost of a takeout food order and began, she said, "punching his mother in the mouth." The boy attempted to call for help, but his father ripped out the phone cord, Ferman said.

The boy then tried to exit the house to get assistance, but his father blocked him, locked the front door, and pushed him out of the way.

"The boy related that his mother then said to him, 'I'm going to die. I love you,' " the criminal complaint said.

The boy told police his father left the kitchen and put on shoes, "returned to his mother's body and jumped on her stomach and face at the same time." He said blood came out of his mother's face and she did not move again, the complaint said.

Ferman said the couple's two other sons were away. She said when the oldest son returned to his home in the 100 block of West Eighth Avenue on Sunday, he called police. She said it was unclear exactly what time the slaying occurred.

The elder son told police his father met him at the front door, said, "I killed your mother," and advised him to avoid the kitchen.

The father told his son he planned to turn himself in and left the house on foot, after hanging a plastic bag containing bloody sneakers and clothing on a kitchen drawer knob. He was not seen again until Plymouth Township police took him into custody on Butler Pike, the complaint said.

An autopsy report listed the cause of death as blunt head trauma, Ferman said.

She said the couple, both of whom were unemployed, had no history of domestic violence; however, Joseph Giongo was released on Dec. 4 from Norristown State Hospital. Ferman said concerned relatives had him committed.

All three boys are staying with relatives, Ferman said, adding that it was impossible to imagine the trauma experienced by the 7-year-old.

"What he witnessed was an absolutely brutal attack on someone he loved by someone he loved," she said.

Bernadette Giongo's death marks the fifth Montgomery County homicide in less than three weeks, officials said.