May 02, 2017
Julia "Julie" Stensky testified Tuesday that she never asked or suggested that her then-boyfriend, David "DJ" Creato, kill his son, Brendan.
Her testimony came in response to a question from Creato's lawyer, Richard J. Fuschino Jr.
Stensky was reluctant to testify at all in the murder trial for Creato, with whom she no longer has a relationship. Creato is on trial for allegedly killing his 3-year-old son, Brendan.
During an hour-long hearing on Tuesday morning, she attempted to invoke her Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate herself. She pleaded the Fifth about a dozen times; each time she was told by Superior Court Judge John T. Kelley to answer the questions. Her lawyer, Joseph Sorrentino, sometimes quietly advised her about how to answer. After the hearing, Stensky answered the same questions in testimony before the jury.
Stensky characterized Creato as "jealous" and "paranoid," particularly in regards to a male student at her university.
Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Christine Shah, who called Stensky as a prosecution witness, had described Stensky as “hateful” and “discontent.” She led Stensky through her testimony.
Stensky, now 19, testified she had contemplated ending her relationship with Creato on the weekend before Brendan's body was found. She said she was annoyed about transportation during her trip down to Creato's apartment. She typically took a train from Manhattan to Trenton, where she was picked up by Creato. On that weekend, however, he was not able to pick her up in Trenton. Instead, she took public transit all the way to Westmont in Haddon Township.
Creato had custody of Brendan that weekend; Stensky testified that she had wanted the boy to be with his grandparents or aunt. In fact, one point she told Creato to take her back to Trenton, though that never happened.
Creato and Stensky met in June 2013 through an online dating service.
Stensky testified she last spoke to Creato on January 11, 2015, the day he was arrested on charges of murdering his son and endangering the boy's welfare.
Stensky testified she slept with Creato in his bedroom, while Brendan slept on the sofa on the Friday night of Columbus Day weekend until Brendan's grandmother and aunt picked up the boy on Saturday. She and Creato went to Cooper River Park, a wooded area, then hung out with a friend of DJ's, Stensky testified. She returned to New York early Monday.
The next day, the Tuesday when Brendan's body would be found by police around 9 a.m. alongside a creek in Cooper River Park, she had a math test and went to bed early, with her phone on silent, she testified. She woke up to discover she had missed texts and calls from Creato, as well as a detective who left a message to inform her that Brendan was missing.
Later that day she returned to Haddon Township to be questioned by authorities. She also provided a DNA sample.
Fuschino, Creato's defense attorney, then questioned Stensky, beginning with their meeting on Tinder, a dating app.
Stensky admitted both she and Creato were "immature" about their jealousies – he about a male student she spoke with and she about Brendan's mother and his former partner, Samantha Denoto.
She testified she had pushed Creato to lessen his time with Brendan, possibly even surrendering his rights. Stensky agreed, though, that Creato consistently told her that Brendan would be in his life.
"I thought for the most part he was a good father, he tried his best," Stensky testified.
"You never suggested anything like this?" asked Fuschino. "You didn't ask him to kill his son?
She had not, she answered softly.
The prosecution has said the couple exchanged more than 9,000 electronic messages after they met using an online dating service.
Shah has said more than 2,500 of those messages are at the core of the prosecution’s case, with Stensky repeatedly expressing a strong dislike of “that kid” and also a resentment that Creato had remained in routine contact with the boy’s mother due to their informal custodial arrangement.
Shah disclosed Stensky was also questioned in July 2016 when she was in Air Force Reserve basic training, referring to her questioners as "gentlemen" and "officers." Stensky was, in fact, questioned by military police. Nothing from that statement was revealed in court.
Stensky left Pace University to join the Air Force Reserves and has completed basic military training. More recently, she worked at a Bucks County grocery store until January. She is now back at Pace.
Stensky and Creato spent part of that weekend with his friend, Kevin Kehs, and his girlfriend.
Kehs, who testified Tuesday afternoon, described Creato as "a great dad" who "put his son first." He also described his friend as "a good person" who was truthful. Kehs' girlfriend, Amanda Forslund, described Stensky as "petty and short." Both described several times when Stensky stalked off, annoyed, during visits with the couple.
The day closed with a video that showed a detective tracing the path – in light socks – from Creato's apartment to the creek where the boy's body was found – in the dark.
By the end of the half-mile walk, the video showed that the detective's socks were dirty. The socks on Brendan's feet were clean.
The detective who shot the video is John Ellis of the prosecutor's crime scene unit. He testified he donned boots to step into the shallow creek and lift Brendan's body out and into a body bag from county medical examiner.
The officer, with 25 years in and more than 200 homicides, cried and dabbed his eyes, recalling the body bag rested on his lap as they drove a short distance to meet the medical examiner's van.