TOMS RIVER, N.J. — A sergeant recounted finding a fellow officer dead in a patrol car as the trial for the man suspected of killing him opened Wednesday.
Sgt. Steven Vigna told the jury he received a call late one afternoon in Jan. 2011, and when he drove to the scene of the gunfire, saw a parked police cruiser, according to the Asbury Park Press. Dispatch told him a man had been shot in the head, but when he saw the car, he thought the officer had gotten out of the cruiser.
Vigna approached the car when he noticed the driver's door open, and then saw the body of Lakewood Police Officer Christopher Matlosz in the driver's seat.
"His shirt was covered in blood," Vigna told the jury solemnly. "There was blood dripping from his nose and mouth. There were no signs of life. No breathing."
Jahmell Crockam, 20, appeared in court on murder and weapons charges and if convicted, could be sent to prison for life without parole. According to Cockram's attorney, police "conveniently" hung the crime on him, but a witnesses thinks Crockam may be the suspect who fired the fatal shots.
Aaron Pitter said when it happened, he heard shouting and saw a man run out of the brush near his home, where he stood in the driveway. A police car turned a corner and stopped, and the man walked toward the police car, Pitter said. Seconds later, he heard three shots, saw smoke come from the vehicle, and watched the man flee.
Pitter told the jury he was "almost certain" Crockam is the man he saw. He did not identify Crockam in a lineup a few days after the shooting.
The state plans to present two more eyewitnesses as the trial goes on.