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February 08, 2016

DJ Creato enters not guilty plea in son's death

Start of trial could be a year or more away, according to lawyer

David “DJ” Creato entered a plea of not guilty Monday in the death of his 3-year-old son, Brendan.

No plea discussions have happened, said his lawyer, who is reviewing “voluminous” discovery information assembled by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.

A follow-up hearing is set for March 7, but a trial could be a year or more away, said defense lawyer Richard J. Fuschino Jr. of Philadelphia.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The child's body was found in Cooper River Park the morning of Oct. 13, 2015, about a half-mile from the apartment he shared with his father in Westmont, a section of Haddon Township in South Jersey.

The boy’s body was partially in a creek that flows into the Cooper River.

Three medical experts examined the boy’s body in the days afterward. But it was not until Dec. 15 that the county’s medical examiner completed his autopsy findings and signed a death certificate.

Dr. Gerald “Buck” Feigin declared that the death was caused by homicidal violence of an unknown cause: either drowning, smothering or asphyxiation.

DJ Creato was indicted and arrested about a month later after a grand jury probe.

Camden County homicide prosecutor Christine Shah alleged then that Creato’s 17-year-old girlfriend of just four months had repeatedly told the boy’s father that she did not like children, implying that was the motivation that led to harming his son.

Unable to post $750,000 bail, Creato, who is being held in the Camden County jail, appeared Monday in a blue prison jumpsuit and shackles during an appearance that took less than a minute.

A contingent of sheriff’s officers stood facing the courtroom during the proceeding.

In the audience were his parents, David and Lisa Creato, the child’s mother, Samantha Denoto, as well as Denoto's mother and her boyfriend. Denoto shared custody with DJ Creato, but the boy was entirely in the care of Creato and his family in the days leading up to the boy’s death.

Fuschino told Superior Court Judge John T. Kelley he was examining extensive discovery records, information the prosecution assembled from the scene where the body was recovered, medical investigations and months of questioning witnesses and following leads, including texts and social media messages.

The judge said questions about the discovery material and its completeness would be the focus of the hearing in March.