Wednesday, April 8 2020

Major Crimes Unit - Violent Crimes Section

In 2018, the investigative staff of the Major Crimes Unit was merged with the investigative staff of the Sexual Assault Child Abuse Unit. The new Major Crimes Unit is now comprised of two sections, the Violent Crimes Section and the Special Victims section. Detectives assigned to the Major Crimes Unit investigate both types of crime.

The Major Crimes Unit – Violent Crimes Section has as its primary function the investigation of homicides and other violent or serious crimes, such as aggravated assault, robbery and arson, as well as large scale criminal operations. The MCU – Violent Offenders Section also supports other BCPO investigative units, including Special Investigations and Financial Crimes, in cases such as police-involved shootings and frauds, respectively. The MCU – Violent Crimes Section operates in conjunction with the Collision and Analysis Reconstruction Unit, and also supports the Homeland Security Unit When Needed.

The Major Crimes Unit – Violent Crimes Section consists of a supervising assistant prosecutor, one assistant prosecutor, one captain, one lieutenant, two detective sergeants, and nine detectives. As stated above the investigative personnel also investigate sex and child abuse cases.

SIGNIFICANT CASES PROSECUTED IN 2018

STATE V. CHRISTOPHER COSTELLO & BRYAN COSTELLO

On October 31, 2016, Justin DuBois, who was the subject of an ongoing narcotics investigation, was reported missing by his mother to the West Windsor Police Department.   The last time that she heard from her son was on October 27th at approximately 7 pm. Investigation revealed that DuBois was staying at 7 Spencer Court in Lumberton and the BCPO Gang, Gun and Narcotics Task Force was set to execute search warrants on the residence and vehicle belonging to DuBois.

As part of the narcotics investigation, on October 28th DuBois’ car was followed to the Lowes store in Hainesport New Jersey. Subsequent review of the surveillance video from the store revealed that Christopher Costello was operating the victim’s vehicle and took it to Lowes, where he purchased three rakes, contractor bags, a pick axe, two shovels and two pairs of gloves. Christopher Costello then re-entered the victim’s car and drove away.

On November 2nd, the victim’s girlfriend Deja Jones was interviewed. Jones stated that she last spoke to DuBois on October 27th and that she spoke to Bryan Costello at 7 Spencer Court in Lumberton on November 1st. At that time, Bryan stated that he had not seen or heard from the victim in some time. On November 3rd officers went to 7 Spencer Court and met with Robert Costello, owner of the residence.

Robert invited the officers in and provided consent to the officers to check the residence for DuBois. Both of Robert’s sons Christopher and Bryan were then interviewed. Each of the suspects stated that they had not seen or heard from Dubois since the 26th or 27th of October. Search warrants were then obtained for the home.

As a result of the search warrant for 7 Spencer Court, a backpack belonging to the victim was located in the basement of the residence. Inside this backpack were several articles of clothing that appeared to be blood stained. Additionally, the victim’s broken I-phone was recovered. In the back yard of the property an 8 x10 foot area that appeared to have been freshly dug was located.

An additional warrant was obtained permitting the excavation of this area. As a result of the excavation Justin Dubois’ body was recovered wrapped in bedding materials and a blue canvas tarp. The autopsy revealed that the victim had trauma to the right side of the head and what appeared to be bruising on the hands. A search of the defendant’s cell phones revealed text messages about the police coming to the house as part of the missing person investigation and not saying anything that would be incriminating. Both brothers were indicted on murder charges.

A motion to suppress each defendants statement was granted on October 13th by Judge Covert who found that the each of the brothers were in custody and should have been advised of their Miranda warnings when the statements were given.

Christopher Costello’s trial began on February 22, 2018. On March 14, 2018, the jury found Chris not guilty of murder and were deadlocked on the lesser included offense of aggravated manslaughter. The jury also found defendant guilty of desecration of human remains and hindering apprehension.

On April 9th Bryan entered a plea to aggravated manslaughter in exchange for 15 years in New Jersey state prison, 85% without parole. In his factual basis, he indicated that his brother was not involved in the homicide but Christopher’s testimony at trial conflicted with some of the details in Bryan’s factual basis. Retrial of Christopher began on July 24, 2018. At the conclusion of trial Christopher Costello was convicted of aggravated manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in New Jersey state prison, 85% of which to be served without parole. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutors Louis Casadia and Robert Van Gilst.

STATE V. WILLIAM GENNETT

July 6, 2016, at approximately 9 a.m., Lumberton police respond to a 9-1-1 call for an unconscious and unresponsive female at 47 Nassau Road in Lumberton. Upon arrival police found 45-year-old Shannon O’Rourke lying in the living room with blood coming from her ear.

The 911 caller was William Gennett who stated he was with the victim until approximately 9 p.m. on July 5th and he returned at approximately 9:00 a.m. on July 6th to let a dog out that she was pet sitting. When police arrived the back door to the residence was found to be kicked or shouldered in. The interior of the house was immaculate with no evidence of a struggle. The autopsy determined that the cause of death was manual strangulation.

The only items known to be missing from the residence were the victim’s cell phone, driver’s license and bank/credit cards. Friends report that the victim went everywhere with her cell phone. Warrants were obtained for the victim’s phone and a security system that the victim had at the home, as well as Gennett’s phone. Gennett was cooperative, allowing a consent search of his phone, car and the room in which he was staying. Gennett also allowed photos of his person to be taken to check for any signs of injury.

Further investigation revealed that Gennett had been stalking the victim. Gennett installed an application on O’Rourke’s smart phone that allowed him to track her whereabouts without her knowing. Additionally, it was discovered that on several occasions he called police to report erratic driving on the victim’s behalf. Records indicate that when these calls were made by Gennett he was several miles away from O’Rourke’s location and could not have observed her driving, yet he knew her exact location. Records from AT&T Mobility who maintained the residential alarm for the victim’s residence indicated discrepancies in some of the initial details provided by Gennett. Specifically, a glass break sensor was activated at a time when the defendant indicated that he was at the residence.

Further, the front door camera to the residence went offline one minute after the glass break sensor was activated. Based upon the statements taken from the defendant and the records received by the alarm company it appears that the defendant strangled the victim and then staged a break-in to cover the crime. The defendant, who was present when the security system was installed, then deactivated the front door camera so that he would not be captured when he left the residence.

Initially Gennett denied knowing anything about who was stalking the victim. When confronted with the information known to investigators he indicated that the victim knew about the stalking application that had been placed on her phone. He also admitted to placing several calls to police resulting in her being pulled over. During the interview, he was locked into a time line that places him at the residence at the time the glass break sensor went off on the victim’s back door which is the door that was damaged during this incident. When the defendant was pressed further he requested a lawyer. Defendant was charged with murder and stalking and arrested at a home in Tabernacle on February 8, 2017.

At the time of the arrest the defendant suffered a medical emergency and was admitted to Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly. The defendant was later released from the hospital and detained pending trial. The defendant was indicted on May 4, 2017, on charges of murder and stalking. On June 20, 2018, the defendant was convicted at trial of murder and stalking. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole. This case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutors Robert Van Gilst and Courtney O’Brien.

STATE V. DAVID STEAD

On July 1, 2016, at approximately 4:30 p.m., the New Jersey State Police were dispatched to 157 Patty Bowker Road in reference to a well-being check. Upon arrival troopers found the victim, Thomas Wright Jr. lying unconscious on the floor of the living room with blood covering his face and a pool of blood under his head and body.

In a separate room of the residence five .22 caliber shell casings and a shattered mirror were lying on the floor of the residence. There was also an unopened wall safe in the room with the mirror and the desk in that room appeared to have been rummaged through. Several items were found to be missing from the residence to include a computer tower, jewelry box, cufflinks, the victim’s wallet, and the keys to a Chevy 2500 pickup truck. The truck was also missing from the residence.

During the investigation, a black backpack containing burglary tools, binoculars, sunglasses, and candy were found in the back pack. Interviews of employees who worked for the victim developed David Stead as a potential suspect. Stead had helped the victim install the wall safe in his residence and Stead had discussed burglarizing and robbing the victim. On July 3, 2016, Stead was arrested at his residence on outstanding traffic warrants. At the time of the arrest, Members of the NJSP Fugitive Unit observed, through a bedroom window, a black and silver semi-automatic handgun, lying on the bedroom floor of the residence.

Witness interviews indicated that the defendant was dropped off near the victim’s residence on June 30, 2016. When the defendant was dropped off he had a black backpack and a smart phone and stated that he was going to make money. The victim’s pickup truck was subsequently located less than a mile from the defendant’s residence. On July 4, 2016, detectives indicated that they wanted to speak to Stead at which time the defendant stated, “I did it.”

A Mirandized statement was then taken from Stead. In this statement, Stead told detectives that he shot the victim four times after confronting him at his residence. Stead stated that he went to the victim’s house intending to rob him of money and took $20 and the victim’s pickup truck. Stead stated that he discarded the handgun from the vehicle while driving from the scene. He was charged with murder, felony murder, robbery, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and theft. On July 9, 2018, the defendant entered a plea to a charge of aggravated manslaughter in exchange for a sentencing recommendation of 30 years 85% to be served without parole. The defendant was sentenced on September 18, 2018, to the recommended 30 years, 85% without parole. This matter was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Michael Angermeier.

STATE V. WILLIAM HINES    

On October 29, 2017, Burlington Township Police responded to 211 Britany Court for a reported stabbing. The caller, Nancy Allen reported that her son, William Hines just stabbed her live-in boyfriend, Scott Willis.

Willis sustained multiple stab wounds in the area of his upper chest with one in close proximity to his heart and underwent emergency surgery at Cooper Hospital. Allen told police that she and the victim told her son to get off the couch so that they could clean the apartment. Hines then told his mother that he wanted to kill them both. A short time later the victim went into the bathroom to take a shower and the defendant proceeded to stab him multiple times.

The defendant was cut during the course of this incident. On October 30th, the defendant turned himself in to the police. On November 4, 2017, the victim died from his injuries. The defendant was indicted on murder and weapons charges. The defendant claimed that there was a history of abuse with the victim and that on the day that the victim was killed that the defendant was defending himself. Trial began in this matter on September 18, 2018.

On September 27, 2018, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder and related weapons offenses. At sentencing the defendant, who was extended term eligible, received a life sentence. This matter was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutors Robert Van Gilst and Jensen Vizzard.

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