Philadelphia News & Search
Two days before 3-year-old Brendan Creato was found dead in Haddon Township woods, his father, David “D.J.” Creato Jr., walked through the woods with his 17-year-old girlfriend, who later told investigators she and Creato had previously been there 20 to 30 times.
Julia Stensky, now 19 — speaking publicly for the first time since Brendan’s body was found in October 2015 — recalled those details Tuesday in Superior Court in Camden, where she was subpoenaed to testify.
Creato, 23, has been charged with murder. Prosecutors say Creato killed Brendan to stop Stensky, who allegedly disliked children, from leaving him.
Stensky spoke to investigators Oct. 13, 2015, the day Brendan was found, but then hired an attorney and declined to speak to authorities further. She was at Pace University in New York City when Brendan died, authorities said, and has not been charged.
Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah first questioned Stensky on Tuesday without the jury present, as Stensky’s New York-based attorney, Joseph Sorrentino, stood to the side. The purpose was to go over her testimony.
Stensky pleaded the Fifth Amendment numerous times, causing Judge John T. Kelley to order her to answer Shah’s questions. Among them: Whether Stensky was upset that Brendan was with Creato when she visited him in Haddon Township the weekend before Brendan died.
“I was kind of upset with Brendan being there,” Stensky said, acknowledging she had also considered breaking up with Creato that weekend.
Stensky had previously called Brendan a “mistake” in a Tumblr post she wrote, and said the boy would force Creato to stay in New Jersey forever.
“He is still a mistake — your mistake,” Stensky wrote in one post, about 10 weeks into their relationship. The post was intended for Creato, prosecutors said.
When Stensky testified in front of jurors later Tuesday morning, recounting much of what she had told Shah, she did not invoke the Fifth Amendment.
Stensky said she and Creato slept in the single bedroom of his second-floor Haddon Township apartment with the door closed, and Brendan slept in the living room. She said she could sometimes hear Brendan — who had asthma — coughing through the door.
Samantha Denoto, Brendan’s mother, shared custody of the boy with Creato. Stensky told investigators that Denoto’s family was pushing her to go to court to possibly take full custody of Brendan.
Stensky said Creato was struggling financially — he was behind on payments for Brendan’s preschool — and that she often paid for dinner when they went out.
When Stensky suggested that Creato’s parents take custody of Brendan, partly due to Creato’s financial troubles, Creato declined and said Brendan would always be part of his life.
“He was a good father,” Stensky said, recalling that Creato would play with Brendan and care for the boy. “He tried his best.”
Asked by Creato’s attorney, Richard J. Fuschino Jr., whether she would ever tell Creato to kill Brendan, Stensky said, “Absolutely not.”
“You didn’t want this to happen?” Fuschino asked.
“No,” Stensky replied.
Stensky and Creato met in June 2015 through the dating app Tinder. She began attending Pace that fall, and told investigators Creato was jealous she was talking to another man, who was a classmate.
“He would check my phone a lot,” Stensky said. Creato also knew the passwords to her Tumblr and Snapchat accounts and could sign into them, she said.
Stensky returned to school after having visited Creato from Oct. 9 to Oct. 12. (Brendan was found dead the next day).
When she came back to school, Creato texted Stensky and asked if she had spoken to any men.
“He was jealous, with a mixture of paranoia,” Stensky testified.
That night — the last night Brendan was seen alive — Creato and Stensky talked on the phone. She went to bed around 8:30 p.m., saying she had a test the next day, and put her phone on silent.
Creato later told investigators he found it odd she was going to bed so early. He was also worried Stensky was talking to a man at school. So he called her — 10 times, according to authorities.
“I was just being jealous,” Creato told investigators. “And I kept calling her.”
The next day, around 6 a.m., Creato called 911 and said Brendan was missing. Creato said he had put Brendan to sleep on the living room couch the night before.
Prosecutors say Stensky and Creato had exchanged 9,487 text messages since meeting on Tinder. Shah has said she plans to present about 2,500 of the messages to jurors.
Stensky testified that she hasn’t spoken to or seen Creato since he was arrested on Jan. 11, 2016, and charged with Brendan’s murder.
Stensky’s attorney instructed her not to speak to reporters outside Tuesday’s hearing.
Philadelphia News & Search