A single mother from New Jersey was bludgeoned to death and then stuffed into the trunk of her car, according to police.
The body of Stephanie DeJesus, 38, was discovered by officers with the Paterson Police Department responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
DeJesus’ injuries were so severe that officers initially thought she had been shot to death. A medical examiner later determined blunt force trauma to be the cause of both DeJesus’s injuries and her death.
Now, three people have been arrested and charged with the murder of DeJesus, following an investigation by the Paterson Police Department. Prosecutors noted in a press release that members of the Totowa Police Department and United States Secret Service also assisted with the investigation efforts.
Three days later, Joelle Martucci, 24, turned herself in at the Paterson Police Department.
Investigators were able to determine that DeJesus had driven from a pharmacy to a home in Totowa the night before police discovered her body, according to NJ.com, citing the probable cause affidavit filed in the case.
Approximately one hour after arriving at that home, Martucci pulled up to the residence and went inside.
That home was later determined to be the residence that Martucci shares with her fiancé and their son.
DeJesus’ car was seen on video leaving soon after Martucci arrived home, according to NJ.com. And a man was seen exiting and locking the vehicle before running off to be picked up by Martucci.
NJ.com reports that investigators identified the man in that video as Justin Fisher, Martucci’s 29-year-old fiancé.
Martucci proved to be a key witness in the case, based on the information contained in the probable cause affidavit. She informed police that while she had nothing to do with the death of DeJesus, she did notice something off when she arrived home the night that DeJesus was seen entering the apartment.
In her interview with police, Martucci said that she arrived home that night to find Fisher and his father Ali Gibson, 51, carrying something out to DeJesus’ car, reports NJ.com.
“Martucci also indicated that when she first entered the home, she noticed the large box/bag in the living room area,” states the affidavit, according to NJ.com.
“Martucci then explained observing a portion of the floor/flooring in the living room area ripped up.”
There was no bag or box found in the car, but Martucci’s cooperation was enough to help secure a warrant for the arrest of Fisher and Gibson just a few days later.
Both men surrendered to police without incident, according to prosecutors. All three are now facing charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
In New Jersey, a first-degree murder charge carries a sentencing minimum of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder ranges from 10 to 20 years in prison.
All three defendants are currently being held at the Passaic County Jail. Prosecutors have asked that all three remain behind bars in motions for pre-trial detention.
According to her obituary, DeJesus, who worked as a cardiovascular technician, is survived by her 16-year-old son, parents, two sisters, and a brother.
There is still no word on motive in the case or how DeJesus knew the three arrested for her murder.
No lawyers are listed for the defendants. Prosecutors declined to comment on the case, and Paterson Police did not respond to a request for comment.
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