October 28, 2015
After two weeks of no new information, a new wrinkle has turned up in the mysterious death of toddler Brendan Link Creato.
Both a man and a woman have reported seeing an older white man wheeling a baby carriage toward Cooper River Park early in the morning of Oct. 13.
One, interviewed by PhillyVoice on the day the three-year-old boy went missing, put the time near 7 a.m.
That was long before a police dog discovered Creato’s lifeless body at about 9 a.m. – but an hour after his father, David “DJ” Creato, called authorities to report his son missing at about 6 a.m.
The boy's body was found in a strip of woods flanking South Park Drive in Haddon Township, near a sharp elbow bend in the road.
Brendan and his 22-year-old father lived in an apartment a half-mile away, at the corner of Cooper and Virginia streets. His father and his mother, Samantha Denoto, who lives elsewhere, shared custody of the boy, but the toddler was in his dad's care when he disappeared.
The father has told authorities the boy was last seen at around 10 p.m. on Oct. 12 and he was missing from their second-floor, double-locked apartment the next morning when he awoke before 6 a.m.
DJ Creato has said he immediately called his mother, Lisa, that morning. She lives about two blocks away on Virginia Street. The area is part of the Westmont section of the township.
DJ Creato has said he next called Haddon Township police to report his son missing.
Authorities have said only that the tot was not physically molested and there were no signs of forced entry.
The strip of woods where the toddler was discovered is near the terminus of Cooper Street, not far from the river that gives the park its name.
One of the witnesses to the man pushing the baby carriage, Mark Hoover, told PhillyVoice about the encounter on the day of the disappearance. Hoover has said he also told police about the sighting on the day of the disappearance.
But Camden County Prosecutor’s Office detectives say they are not aware of him talking and would like to meet with him, PhillyVoice has learned.
Andy McNeil, public information officer for the prosecutor's office, declined Wednesday to comment on the multiple stroller sightings in the neighborhood.
Hoover, a township resident, said the man pushing the carriage wore a yellow sweater, tan pants and eyeglasses. He said the man appeared to be at least 60.
Hoover said he thought it odd for an older man to be out that early with a baby stroller. The sun did not rise until 7:05 a.m. that day.
Hoover said he could not see into the carriage because it was covered over with a blanket – the temperature that morning was in the low 50s.
And while the timing of the walk struck Hoover as somewhat off, what hit him most, he said, was that the man met his gaze, then appeared to try to stare him down.
Hoover did not keep the man in view and could not say where the carriage headed after the brief encounter.
Attempts to locate and re-interview Hoover by PhillyVoice have not been successful over the past two days.
DJ Creato's lawyer, Richard Fuschino, said he had not heard of the baby stroller in the area before being contacted by PhillyVoice.
He added he is not aware of any stroller missing from the Creatos' home or his client's apartment, nor of any abandoned strollers found in the neighborhood.
"For all I know, it is a coincidence, but I certainly think is is something police should investigate," he said. "But I have no conclusion."
Meanwhile, no cause of death has been determined in Creato’s death more than two weeks ago.
The initial physical examination done during an autopsy, conducted by Camden County Medical Examiner Dr. Gerald “Buck” Feigin and reviewed by two other medical examiners, did not immediately reveal a cause of death for the toddler.
But additional laboratory reports – that usually includes things such as fiber analysis, microscopic studies and a toxicology report – remain pending.
No autopsy is considered complete until a final toxicology report is accepted.
In controversial or critical cases, sometime two labs are asked to file independent toxicology reports. If the results differ, the differences need to be reconciled, adding to turnaround time. Toxicology reports in critical cases typically take between 10 days and a month, though they can take longer.
A toxicology examination would be particularly telling if the child died due to the ingestion of drugs – illegal or prescription – rather than trauma or hypothermia, for example.
McNeil declined this week to comment on when a toxicology report is expected.
Other odd details have also percolated in the unresolved case.
For instance, DJ Creato’s 17-year-old girlfriend, Julia “Julie” Spensky, has said in a social media post made after the toddler’s body was discovered that she “could be facing criminal charges in a homicide investigation.”
The Tumblr post began:
“For the first time in my entire life, I understand what it means to be lonely. Nothing I’ve experienced in the past could have prepared me for this.
“So give me a reason to live; give me a reason to stay. Give me a reason to see it to my birthday. Because I honestly can’t find a reason by myself. I can’t do this; I don’t think I am strong enough.
“I’ve handled shit before, but nothing this serious and terrifying and nerve-racking.
“Shit, I could be facing criminal charges in a homicide investigation. How does a 17-year-old deal with that?”
In another Tumblr post after Creato’s death, Spensky wrote:
“I am possibly a suspect in a homicide investigation. I was advised by my attorney not to speak to anyone about my case. I am alone, I have no one to turn to. I can’t talk to my parents or anyone else in my family, not that anyone knows what happened…
“My boyfriend is in worse trouble than I am and can’t leave the state he’s in, but he has friends and family all around him to cry with and hug and vent to and lean on. I don’t have that luxury.
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say or where to go or how to handle this situation, but what I do know is that I cannot go to anyone.”
Spensky's attorney, Joseph Sorrentino, declined comment on Wednesday.
In a Tumblr post she published in August, Spensky claimed she had illegally worked under the table for the company that employs her boyfriend, Creato Window.
She also claimed in that post that while the company is owned by DJ Creato’s father, David Creato, it is actually affiliated with a man charged in several criminal investigations.
Spensky’s post alleges that the problem with Creato Window lies with Firas Emachah, whom Spensky characterized as a silent partner in the window company. Her post also called Emachah a chronic “liar.”
Emachah, 42, formerly owned a home renovation company in West Berlin named Dream House. It went out of business in 2014 after being charged with various schemes in Camden and Hunterdon counties. Charges are pending, according to county prosecutors.
Emachah has repeatedly spoken on behalf of the Creatos in media accounts since the death of Brendan.
Spensky alleges that Creato Window often didn’t pay her or her boyfriend because of insufficient funds in their bank account, and that the company routinely stalled subcontractors.
David Creato's lawyer, William Brennan, has not responded to requests for comment made over two days.
The Creato Window company shares its business address with David Creato's home on Virginia Avenue in Haddon Township, according to tax records.
McNeil said the prosecutor’s office is aware of the Tumblr postings, but he declined further comment, except to acknowledge that his office has charged Emachah with several instances of fraud and the cases against him are ongoing.
Attempts to reach Emachah for comment were not successful.
McNeil likewise declined comment on a since-removed YouTube trailer made by DJ Creato’s younger sister, Sarah Jessica Creato. The video was viewed by several township residents, and one resident described it for PhillyVoice.
Apparently done as an assignment for a college class, the trailer showed Brendan Creato in the role of a toddler named Mikey who disappears. The disappearance is revealed in the trailer by a character played by David Creato.
At the end of the trailer, "Mikey" turns out to have died.
The one word everyone interviewed by PhillyVoice concerning the trailer used to describe the trailer: Creepy.