Trial of Creato, charged with killing 3-year-old son, to start next week

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Jurors can visit the wooded area where a 3-year-old Haddon Township boy was found dead in 2015, a judge ruled Wednesday, saying the trial of the man charged in the case — the boy’s father, David “D.J.” Creato Jr. —  would begin next week.

Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah had asked the court to allow jurors to see the spot where Brendan Creato’s body was discovered. Shah plans to argue that a child so young could not find his way there on his own, because it is difficult to access.

“This is going to be a pivotal issue,” Shah told Judge John T. Kelley. “There is no way that a 3-year-old child made that walk.”

Creato, 23, has been charged with murder and endangering the welfare of a child.

Creato’s attorney, Richard J. Fuschino Jr., told Kelley that fallen trees and a change in seasons — it’s now spring, and Brendan was found in autumn in 2015 — have changed the appearance of the spot where Brendan’s body was discovered.

“It’s an unfair comparison,” Fuschino said.

Kelley said that he would tentatively grant Shah’s request, but that certain logistical issues would have to be resolved. Among them: Whether each juror is physically able to walk through the woods.

Shah said cleanup crews can remove any fallen trees. She told Kelley she initially wanted to have jurors view the area at night, since Brendan disappeared in the overnight hours.

Creato’s parents, David Sr. and Lisa, sat with several relatives in court Wednesday. After the hearing, David Sr. said, “We support D.J. 100 percent,” echoing support he has maintained for his son throughout the investigation.

Kelley set jury selection to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Creato’s trial had been delayed twice to give the defense time for a pathologist to review the autopsy findings on 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 until David Creato —  who had reported his son missing hours before the discovery — was arrested.

Prosecutors have alleged that 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 when Brendan died, authorities said.

Shah has said that 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 David Creato at the time of Brendan’s death. She has sat opposite from Creato’s immediate family in court, but was not present Wednesday.

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