Prosecutors: Creato claims spirit drew son to South Jersey woods where boy was found dead

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David “D.J.” Creato Jr. said he believed a spirit drew his 3-year-old son, Brendan, to a spot in the woods where the boy was found dead, prosecutors said Thursday in revealing a conversation secretly recorded by the boy’s mother.

Creato, 23, now charged with murder, had frequented that same spot, at times around 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., and considered it a spiritual place, Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah said during her opening statement of his trial in Superior Court in Camden.

Creato said “he loves to go down there, goes down there all the time,” Shah told jurors.

Shah, who spoke for about 30 minutes, did not specify whether authorities had asked the boy’s mother, Samantha Denoto, to record the conversation, or if she had done so on her own. Denoto did not live with Creato.

Prosecutors have said Creato killed Brendan to stop his girlfriend, whom he met on the dating app Tinder, from leaving him.

Brendan’s pajama-clad body was found slumped over a rock in woods near the Cooper River in Haddon Township on Oct. 13, 2015, several hours after Creato had called 911 and reported him missing. The father was charged three months later.

In his 15-minute opening statement Thursday, Creato’s attorney, Richard J. Fuschino Jr., said, “I represent an innocent person,” and asked Creato to stand up for jurors. Creato, wearing a dark blue suit, his hair tied in a pony tail, did so before sitting back down.

Fuschino called Brendan’s death horrible, but said Creato did nothing but love his son.

Creato is spiritual, Fuschino acknowledged. And while that may make people uncomfortable, he said, “that’s not what makes a person guilty.”

Prosecutors have said Brendan died of “homicidal violence,” and that an examination of his brain showed an abnormality consistent with oxygen deprivation that can be caused by asphyxiation, drowning, or strangulation.

An exact cause of death, however, was never determined.

Shah told jurors that Creato was consumed by jealousy at the time Brendan died. Creato’s girlfriend, Julia Stensky, 17 at the time, was attending Pace University in New York, and Creato was worried she was talking to other men — which she was, Shah said.

Stensky also did not like children, according to Shah, and told Creato she wanted Brendan to not be around when she and Creato were together.

“I don’t have a choice,” Creato told Stensky at one point in a text message, Shah said. “I want you to not have a kid in your life,” Stensky told him, according to Shah.

The night that Brendan disappeared, Stensky was at college. Creato called her 10 times and repeatedly signed into her social media accounts, including Snapchat, from his iPhone, Shah said. She never responded.

“He was very upset with Julia that night,” Shah said.

Shah told jurors she plans to reveal up to 2,500 of the 9,487 text messages Stensky and Creato exchanged since meeting in June 2015 on Tinder. Stensky is not facing charges in Brendan’s death.

The jury of 11 women and three men also saw pictures Thursday of the inside of Creato’s second-floor apartment, and the living room couch where Creato told investigators he had put Brendan to sleep the night he disappeared.

The trial is expected to last through May.

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