NORTH ELIZABETH, NJ — They kissed one last time.

Then the young couple took out their wallets and carefully placed them next to each other on the train platform.

Theresa LaMarca, 22, and Damien Conners, 26, pushed open a gate and walked hand-in-hand down the seven steps leading to the tracks at the station in North Elizabeth, N.J.

The couple walked hand-in-hand in front of an express train.

The two lovers clutched one another as they stood for a moment under a concrete walkway that spans the tracks. At exactly 4:15 p.m., they plunged in front of a New York bound train and killed themselves.

The two — once promising suburban kids whose lives had spiraled downward into drugs — left no suicide notes.

But friends and family members said LaMarca and Conners were broke and desperate.

They'd been evicted from their apartment and stolen thousands from her parents as they fought a losing battle with a shared $300-a-day drug habit.

"I don't see anything romantic in what happened," said grieving mom Barbara LaMarca, 59, of Hillside, N.J. "To me, it's all a tragedy."

The couple walked across two sets of tracks before the double suicide, then paused on the third track, which carries ground-trembling northbound express trains headed to Newark and New York.

Sheets of rain pounded down on the tracks as a few passengers stood waiting for the 4:26 p.m. local train to Penn Station on Monday.

Through the fierce storm, an Amtrak train thundered toward them at 55 miles an hour.

LaMarca and Conners hugged and took a few steps forward — right into the path of the locomotive. They were thrown about 100 yards from the point of impact and killed instantly, police said.

'Full of Life'
The future once seemed bright for LaMarca and Conners, two children of suburban prosperity who grew up within a few minutes' drive of the spot where they died.

Sinking deeper into debt, the couple started to get desperate.

LaMarca, who graduated from St. Mary's High School in Elizabeth, was working at a shoe store and planned to start classes at Union County College last September.

"She was happy, she was healthy, she was full of life," said Barbara LaMarca.

Conners grew up a few miles away in Roselle Park. He was working as a butcher at a supermarket and moved in with some friends in Cranford.

The couple met in a bar last August, and fell in love at first sight. A few days later, LaMarca packed up her clothes and her Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana CDs, and moved out of her parents' house.

The couple looked like they were planning their lives together when they rented the one-bedroom apartment in a working-class complex in Elizabeth.

"He told me they were going to get engaged," said Stash Kaczorowski, 44, the superintendent. "They were very much in love."

For a few months, everything was fine. The couple was quiet and never caused any trouble.

But they also hid a secret obsession with drugs. Kaczorowski said he found pipes and syringes in their apartment.

"If I knew they had problems, I'd have tried to help them out," said Sonia Douglas, their next-door neighbor.

Things went from bad to worse when Conners lost his job last winter.

LaMarca pitched in to buy her dad a car stereo for Christmas, but skipped an appointment to meet him to get it installed. Her family never saw her again. She stopped answering their calls and never replied to her mom's letters.

Sinking deeper into debt, the couple started to get desperate.

Passed Stolen Checks
Last month, they apparently broke into the LaMarcas' house, stole some blank checks — and Theresa cashed them for $5,000. "There is no explanation," said Barbara LaMarca. "Instead of focusing on herself, the drugs were doing the focusing for her."

Finally, the super evicted the couple after they fell four months behind on the rent for the $750-a-month apartment. They left three weeks ago and moved into a motel. When Conners ran into Kaczorowski, he said they planned to move back in with their parents, but wanted to stay together.

"They wouldn't allow anyone to keep them apart — when that train hit them they became one."

Wiping away tears, Kaczorowski repainted the couple's old apartment yesterday — and struggled to understand what went so terribly wrong.

"It's like a Romeo and Juliet thing to me," he said. "They wouldn't allow anyone to keep them apart and they kept their word. When that train hit them they became one."


Seppuku by Train:
Mainichi Shimbun (Tokyo), 2000 - 2002
  At the end of the line is where some Japanese decide to catch the train.