Philadelphia News & Search
Hours after seeing photos in court of 3-year-old Brendan Creato’s lifeless body slumped over a rock, the left side of his face in a creek, jurors were taken to the spot in the Haddon Township woods where a police dog located the boy in 2015.
Prosecutors had requested the visit to show that Brendan could not have walked there on his own, and that his father, David “D.J.” Creato Jr. — who has been charged with murder — must have placed him there.
Delaware River Port Authority Sgt. John Quigley, who found Brendan’s body on Oct. 13, 2015, led jurors on the narrow, downhill dirt path to the spot where the body lay. The spot was marked with an orange cone on Thursday.
The jurors spent 15 minutes at the site, near South Park Drive and Cooper Street, before getting back on a bus that brought them there.
The bus also briefly stopped outside Creato’s apartment, where Brendan was last seen alive. It is three-quarters of a mile from where Brendan’s body was found. Jurors did not exit the bus to view the apartment.
The whole trip, from when jurors left Superior Court in Camden to when they returned, took an hour. The prosecution and defense — as well as Creato — were also present when jurors toured the wooded area, but did not give testimony.
In court earlier Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah showed images of Brendan’s body on a flat-screen TV that was angled away from reporters, so only jurors could see the pictures.
Then Shah recalled the state in which the boy was found: His legs and feet were submerged in the creek. His arms were bent, his palms up. Brendan also had silt lines on his face, suggesting the water had receded at some point while his body was there.
The jury of 11 women and three men mostly maintained their composure as they saw the pictures.
Prosecutors say an examination of Brendan’s brain showed an abnormality consistent with oxygen deprivation that can be caused by asphyxiation, drowning, or strangulation — though an exact cause of death was never determined.
Jurors on Thursday also heard testimony from Michael Rhoads, the lead detective for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office in the case.
Rhoads testified he immediately suspected foul play when Brendan’s body was discovered, but didn’t believe Creato was a suspect until one to two weeks later.
Yet on the day Brendan was found, investigators kept Creato at the township police station for nearly 12 hours — far longer than any other Creato family member. Rhoads questioned Creato three times, each more than an hour, in a windowless room.
“It was accusatory in nature, but I didn’t flat-out say, ‘I believe you killed your son,’” Rhoads said.
Creato had called 911 and reported his son missing around 6 a.m. that day. The police dog found Brendan a little before 9 a.m.
Creato did not yet know about the discovery when he was brought to the Haddon Township police building just before 9:30 a.m. Detectives broke the news to him about 50 minutes later. Creato stayed at the police building until about 9 p.m.
Shah said Creato had access to a lunchroom and the restroom — not just the questioning room — and could leave at any point.
Creato’s attorney, Richard J. Fuschino Jr., said his client stayed to cooperate with investigators, and provided his phone and DNA when they asked.
“He never tried to imply that it made sense to him his son would vanish or leave on his own accord, right?” Fuschino asked Rhoads, who acknowledged that Creato did not.
Investigators believed it was best to keep Creato in the police building in case they had more questions, and to keep him away from the news media, Rhoads said.
Brendan’s mother, Samantha Denoto, also gave an hour-long statement to Rhoads that day. Denoto did not live with Creato.
Prosecutors say Creato killed Brendan to stop his then-17-year-old girlfriend, who disliked children, from leaving him.
Creato’s girlfriend, Julia Stensky, now 19, was away at Pace University in New York City when Brendan died and has not been charged. She and Creato met on the dating app Tinder in June 2015.
Testimony resumes Tuesday, when Stensky is expected to testify.
The trial is expected to last through May.
Philadelphia News & Search