A New Jersey man on trial for allegedly murdering his parents, sister, and surrogate grandmother at the age of 16 still believed in Santa Claus when he brutally massacred his family, his brother testified in court.
Scott Kologi, now 20, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and a weapons charge for the 2017 quadruple homicide that occurred just minutes before his family planned to ring in the new year. Although just 16 at the time, prosecutors in Monmouth County announced in 2019 that they would be moving the case out of family court and trying Kologi as an adult.
The defense has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, arguing in court that their client suffered from untreated schizophrenia and experienced a psychotic break the day of the murders. Kologi also has autism. Kologi’s lawyers also say that their client suffered from severe developmental disabilities, a claim supported by the testimony this week of the defendant’s half-brother Jonathan Ruiz.
“He acted as if he was at a much younger age,” testified Ruiz according to the Asbury Park Press. Ruiz, who has the same mother as Kologi, then noted that Kologi displayed a “greater disparity in his mental abilities” as he got older. He then listed some examples for jurors to hear, stating that his brother needed his mother to dress him, often slept in bed with his parents, and still believed that Santa Claus delivered his Christmas gifts every year.
When asked how he knew his brother still believed in Santa, Ruiz replied: “Because I would help hide presents in the attic so he would believe that Santa brought him the presents, and the presents were tagged ‘Santa.’”
Ruiz saw his family just hours before his brother killed them, stopping by the family home for a few hours before he and his now-wife head to a party in Philadelphia, he said on the witness stand. He later broke down in tears while detailing his last conversation with his mother as the two drove to pick up a pizza for his brother. “It was happy, normal,” Ruiz said while wiping his eyes with a tissue. He said that everyone seemed “happy and normal” that day.
The defense team’s decision to call Ruiz to the stand comes after the family’s other surviving brother, Steven Kologi Jr., testified for the prosecution. He had been at the house for his brother’s rampage and later acted as the minor’s guardian when he met with law enforcement.
Authorities said Kologi confessed to the murders during that initial meeting with detectives from the Long Branch Police Department. Video of the interrogation shows Kologi calmly explaining how he killed each of the four family members while his brother struggles to maintain his composure.
“When everything was happening, I felt like I was watching it like I was further back in my mind,” the then-teenager said. “I just kept firing until they, like, stopped moving.”
The suspect told detectives that he went upstairs and put on a leather jacket, sunglasses and earplugs just before his killing spree. He then loaded a rifle belonging to his biological brother and stood in his room with all of the lights turned off, noting that he knew his mother would come looking for him and he didn’t want her to see him with the weapon.
Kologi shot his mother Linda Kologi, 44, four times in the head, he recalled during the interrogation. His father, Steven Kologi Sr., 42, was the next victim, shot in the back and torso by his son when he rushed upstairs after hearing the gunfire. Kologi then made his way downstairs and shot his grandfather’s girlfriend Mary Schulz, 70, in the torso, he said, referring to Schulz as his “grandmother Mary.” The final victim was Brittany Kologi, 18, who Kologi said he shot in the head three times while she sat at the kitchen table.
Kologi told detectives that he planned to shoot more people but seeing his grandfather fall to his knees and break down in tears after he shot Schulz made him “confused.”
The defense continued its case this week by calling a medical professional who testified that Kologi showed signs of schizophrenia and appeared to be having a psychotic episode at the time of the murders. Family members who testified earlier in the case have also stated that Kologi did speak of his desire to kill his family and had asked to see a medical professional to address those thoughts.
The defense had been hoping to block the jury from seeing the video of Kologi’s confession to police, but the judge denied that motion before the trial got underway at Monmouth County Superior Court.
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