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After another mistrial for a former South Jersey police chief, the mother of his teen victim seeks justice

The mother of Timothy Stroye wants prosecutors to seek a third trial for Frank Nucera Jr. A second jury deadlocked on hate crime charges last week.

Falicia Stroye poses for a portrait in front of the Bordentown Township Police Department on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. Stroye’s son, Timothy, is the teenager that former Bordentown Township Police Chief Frank Nucera is accused of assaulting in a hate crime case. Stroye died earlier this year.
Falicia Stroye poses for a portrait in front of the Bordentown Township Police Department on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. Stroye’s son, Timothy, is the teenager that former Bordentown Township Police Chief Frank Nucera is accused of assaulting in a hate crime case. Stroye died earlier this year.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

On the day last week that a federal judge again declared a mistrial in the hate-crime trial of the South Jersey police chief who five years ago slammed her handcuffed son’s head into a door, Falicia Stroye drove to a Trenton funeral home.

There, she finally picked up the remains of her son, Timothy Stroye, who had died earlier this year. She brought them home in a purple urn and placed them in a china cabinet in her apartment, a reminder to keep pushing.

“I want justice, not just for my son, but for every Black young man,” she said. “I’m going to fight until I can’t fight anymore.”

Twice now, former Bordentown Police Chief Frank Nucera has been tried in federal court in Camden, and both times Judge Robert Kugler declared a mistrial after jurors deadlocked on the two most serious civil rights charges.

Federal authorities have not yet said if they intend to try Nucera for a third time. Though Kugler sentenced him to 28 months in prison for lying to the FBI, the former chief remains free pending a decision on the hate-crime charges. Legal experts predict prosecutors will likely dismiss the remaining counts.

Stroye hopes not. She wants closure.

“There was no justice served,” she said, in her first interview since the verdict.

A mother of three, Stroye, 45, trekked from her Morrisville home to Camden for several days last month to hear testimony in the high-profile case. She missed the first trial and wanted the jury and Nucera to feel her presence this time.

» READ MORE: Race takes center stage as jury questioning begins in hate-crime trial of former South Jersey police chief

“There were some days I couldn’t take it, to hear the hatred, pure hatred,” she said. “It was brutal to sit there.”

Federal authorities say Nucera had “a significant history of making racist comments concerning African Americans,” spoke about joining a firing squad to kill them, and used police dogs to intimidate Black spectators at high school basketball games.

During a Sept. 1, 2016, encounter at a Bordentown hotel, Nucera allegedly struck Stroye, then 18, who was in custody and not resisting, prosecutors say. After the assault, authorities say, Nucera made racist remarks that were secretly recorded by a fellow officer at the police station.

Several officers testified against Nucera at both trials. After deliberating for more than 16 hours over three days last month, the panel told Kugler it could not reach a verdict.

Falicia Stroye said she believes the jury could have reached a decision if it had heard from her son. The jury learned through testimony by a prosecution witness that he died in January.

His mother said Timothy was found unconscious on the floor in his brother’s apartment. Authorities suspected a possible heroin overdose and ruled the death accidental. She said her son smoked marijuana, but she was unaware of any heroin use. He died Jan. 23, two months short of his 23rd birthday.

Described by his mother as a troubled young man, Stroye had an extensive criminal record, including several felony convictions. He was released from prison in January after serving six months for a domestic-violence charge involving the mother of his daughter, his mother said.

In the interview, Stroye, a pediatric nurse, wanted to share a different side of her son. She and her late husband, Timothy Sr., a deacon, preached Christian values to their family, she said.

Timothy, the second-born, was a mischievous rule-breaker with a dazzling smile that made it easy to forgive his misdeeds, she said. He was also the child that she spent the most time on her knees praying for, she said.

As a teenager, he skipped classes at Trenton High School after his parents dropped him off, she said. They enrolled him in mentoring programs, but he was lured by the streets, becoming “a gang wannabe,” she said.

“My son got lost in the corruption of the world,” she said softly. “As much as I wanted to save my son, I couldn’t.”

After his arrest in Bordentown, Timothy Stroye called his parents from lockup and asked for help getting a bond, his mother said. Even before the call, she had a premonition.

“I knew something was wrong. I knew something had happened,” she said.

Police had been called to the hotel because Stroye and his girlfriend were swimming in the pool without paying their hotel bill. In a November 2017 interview with The Inquirer, Stroye described his encounter with Nucera and other officers at the hotel. “I thought they were going to shoot me,” Stroye said then.

But Falicia Stroye said she saw a change in her son after he was released from a work program on Jan. 2. On the ride home, her son promised that he would turn his life around, and take care of his daughter, Journie, 2, she said. She gave him the family Bible and he was learning to play the keyboard.

“He was my baby boy,” she said. “I will love him until God tells me otherwise.”