South Jersey father charged with killing 3-year-old son may finally face trial

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The case of a Haddon Township father accused of killing his 3-year-old son and dumping the boy’s body in the woods may finally head to trial this week.

A hearing is scheduled Tuesday in Superior Court in Camden for David “D.J.” Creato Jr.,  23, whose trial was delayed twice to give the defense time for a pathologist to review the autopsy findings on Creato’s son, Brendan.

A police dog found Brendan’s pajama-clad body slumped over a rock near the Cooper River on Oct. 13, 2015, not far from Cooper Street and South Park Drive.

Three months passed before Creato — who had reported his son missing hours before the discovery — was arrested and charged with murder and endangering the welfare of a child.

Anxiety and rumors of possible suspects consumed Haddon Township before the arrest. Some parents kept their children indoors, while others accompanied children outside more often.

Prosecutors have alleged Creato killed Brendan to stop his then-17-year-old girlfriend from leaving him. The girlfriend has not been charged. She was at Pace University in New York City when Brendan died, authorities said.

Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah has requested that jurors visit the spot where Brendan was found, saying photos and videos alone will not provide enough context. Shah, in a court motion filed two weeks ago, said the area is difficult to access, and that the prosecution will argue “there is no way a three-year-old child could find his way there on his own.”

Shah has 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, despite a review of the case by three doctors, including state medical examiner Andrew L. Falzon.

Brendan’s mother, Samantha Denoto, did not live with Creato at the time of Brendan’s death. She has sat opposite from Creato’s immediate family in court.

Tuesday’s hearing begins at 9 a.m.

Follow reporter Michael Boren on Twitter (@borenmc) for updates.

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