Mark Girardot tells 20/20 that before his marriage to wife Jennair fractured, "I couldn't imagine not being with her for the rest of my life"
The shots fired April 23, 2018, inside the upscale residence on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line brought a horrific end to the two romances of Mark Gerardot.
Found dead by Mark on the kitchen floor was his wife of 24 years, Jennair, from whom Mark was separated as he nudged the couple toward divorce.
Nearby was the body of Mark’s mistress, Meredith Chapman, a Villanova University assistant vice president shot dead in her home by Jennair, who then turned the gun on herself, according to police.
Seeing his wife’s body, “I screamed an obscenity and ran to her,” Mark told ABC’s 20/20 in an episode about the love triangle-turned-tragedy that airs Friday at 10 p.m. ET. (An exclusive clip is above.). “I just said, ‘Baby. Oh, baby. What have you done?'”
The affair between Mark and Meredith had started with shared emotional intimacies over drinks in late 2017, soon after Meredith hired Mark for a job in the marketing department at the University of Delaware, where Meredith then worked.
Accepting the job required Mark to briefly leave Jennair behind in South Carolina. But already the couple’s marriage was struggling, he says. Meredith, too, confessed to him about her own unhappy marriage, and before Jennair moved north, Mark and Meredith had expressed their love for one another, he says.
Jennair sensed the change in her husband. “She finally asked me, ‘What is up with you? You’re acting different,'” says Mark. “She said specifically, ‘It’s Meredith, isn’t it?'”
The Gerardots had met as teens in the summer of 1986 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Married on October 23, 1993 — she was 23, he was 25 — they rode the ups-and-downs of their life together, including “epic” arguments he says Jennair would win because “she was always going to have the last word,” says Mark.
Yet in those first years, “we were happy,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine not being with her for the rest of my life.”
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The attention of Meredith spun him around.
After Mark and Meredith’s first kiss, he “immediately felt awful,” he says, because he still had feelings for Jennair. Yet “it was such a connection. To shut it down just didn’t feel right,” he says. “I had to at least find out what it was that … drew us together.”
He announced his intent to leave Jennair but still entered with her into counseling. He also continued to see Meredith, who switched jobs from the University of Delaware to Villanova and moved to the Philadelphia area while separating from her own husband of nine years.
Meanwhile, Mark’s acknowledged affair became an obsession for Jennair. She placed tracking devices on the cars driven by Mark and Meredith, and sewed listening devices into Mark’s clothes to secretly record his conversations.
One of those recordings captured Jennair’s rising insecurities.
“You don’t find me appealing,” Jennair, 49, told her husband, according to the audio obtained by 20/20. “You don’t find me attractive. You don’t want me anymore. You don’t even like me. You are miserable.”
Referencing Meredith, she said, “She lights your fire, she makes you feel young. You’re excited, it’s all fresh. You’re getting to know each other and you are in love with her … “
On the day of the murder-suicide, Mark says he was waiting to meet Jennair for a scheduled dinner to discuss their divorce when she cancelled by text — and then sent increasingly alarming messages. “You ruined my life,” said one. “I hope you never find happiness,” said another, followed by, “Bye, Mark.”
He drove to Meredith’s house fearing a confrontation between the two women — and instead, encountered both of their bodies.
Police who later recovered a series of text messages and emails written by the Jennair said they pointed to revenge as her motive for murder.
The 20/20 episode airs Friday (10 p.m. ET) on ABC.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.