Philadelphia News & Search
The medical examiner who concluded 3-year-old Brendan Creato died of “homicidal violence” acknowledged in court Wednesday that he could not determine where the boy died — in the woods where his body was found, or elsewhere — what time he died, or who was responsible for his death.
“You can’t tell us where Brendan died, can you?” asked Richard J. Fuschino Jr., the attorney for Brendan’s father, David “D.J.” Creato Jr., who has been charged with his son’s murder.
“No,” Camden County Medical Examiner Gerald Feigin replied.
Feigin, who performed an autopsy on Brendan, said an examination of the boy’s brain showed an abnormality consistent with oxygen deprivation that can be caused by asphyxiation, drowning, or strangulation.
Feigin was unable to determine which of three led to Brendan’s death — leaving an exact cause unknown — but ruled Brendan had died of “homicidal violence.”
Feigin based that on Brendan’s brain and the fact Brendan was found wearing clean socks, which suggested he had not walked to the woods, three-quarters of a mile from his father’s Haddon Township apartment.
Fuschino, who has called Feigin “a disgrace,” pressed Feigin on possibilities other than homicide.
“There is such a thing as accidental drowning, right?” Fuschino asked.
“Yes,” Feigin replied.
“Accidental asphyxia?” Fuschino asked.
“Yes,” Feigin said.
Fuschino then asked what Feigin defined as “homicidal violence.”
“Do you mean it to suggest trauma?” Fuschino said.
“Yes,” Feigin replied. “Enough to kill.”
Brendan’s pajama-clad body was found slumped over a rock, his legs and feet submerged in a creek, in Haddon Township woods near Cooper Street and South Park Drive on Oct. 13, 2015.
A police dog discovered the boy several hours after his father called 911 and said he woke up and Brendan was missing.
Jurors on Wednesday saw pictures of Brendan’s body from the autopsy, which was conducted the day he was found. It showed Brendan’s hands were slightly wrinkled, indicating they had also been submerged in the creek.
Creato was charged with murder three months after Brendan’s death. Prior to that, Feigin testified to a grand jury, which determined there was enough evidence to charge Creato.
Feigin told the grand jury this was a “difficult case,” according to court records. He called in a colleague from his office, Charles Siebert, as well as the acting state medical examiner, Andrew L. Falzon, to review the autopsy findings on Brendan.
Siebert wrote in an autopsy report that he found “small superficial abrasions” on Brendan’s neck, but nothing to indicate an exact cause of death.
Still, he wrote, the death was not natural.
Feigin cited Brendan’s clean socks as evidence that the boy had not walked to the woods.
“This shows that the decedent had been placed in this location and had not gone there under his own power,” Feigin wrote in a report, while also acknowledging he could not determine an exact cause of death.
In a letter to Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah in November 2015, Falzon, the acting state medical examiner, alluded to that missing piece.
“Unfortunately, a thorough investigation of the case may not be able to identify the cause and manner of death in this tragic case,” Falzon wrote.
Prosecutors say Creato killed his son to stop his 17-year-old girlfriend, who disliked children, from leaving him.
Testimony will continue Wednesday afternoon.
Philadelphia News & Search