MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Merrick man who is charged with killing his wife of four decades appeared in court Monday.

It happened over the weekend inside the home they share with their grown son.

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(credit: Nassau County Police Department)

John Gerges, 60, is accused of intentional murder, but before facing a judge, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff asked him about the charges. Gerges told her he’d suffered “years of abuse,” but wouldn’t elaborate.

Police say it has been a volatile 37 year marriage which erupted Saturday, with the couple arguing in their Lindgren Street home over a kitchen sink repair at 3 a.m.

“John tells us that they were involved in a physical fight. During this argument, it became physical. At which time John put his hands on Marvat, ceasing her ability to breathe,” said Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick of the Nassau County police.

Police say the couple’s grown son witnessed the fight, left for work, then returned to find his 58-year-old Marvat Gerges dead. He and another relative were in court, visibly shaken by this family tragedy.

“They both are family, the victim and John,” a relative said.

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Neighbors say the couple has kept to themselves for decades.

“There were fights in the house that I heard,” one neighbor said.

Marvat Gerges, stricken with severe arthritis, rarely left the house, neighbors told Gusoff.

“The father was such a nice man. Whenever you saw him, you saw him in the supermarket or whatever, he’d always say ‘Hi how are you.’ We would always say how is your wife and he would say good days and bad days,” said neighbor Tina VanWell.

Police said they’ll look into the claims of abuse John Gerges made. There were no calls to police for domestic incidents to the home, no history of orders of protection.

“Just because it doesn’t hit our radar on our domestic incident reports doesn’t mean someone didn’t see something, say something in years past,” Fitzpatrick said.

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Gerges was held without bail, and was represented by a court appointed attorney.