A grand jury has charged a West Deptford man with first-degree murder in the 2002 sexual assault slaying of Jennifer Whipkey, officials said today.

An indictment handed up Wednesday also charges Brian M. Mertz, 31, with first-degree felony murder, first-degree aggravated sexual assault, and related offenses, the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office said.

Mertz was arrested in December after DNA evidence linked him to the slaying six years earlier, officials said.

Whipkey, 22, a mother of a 4-year-old girl, disappeared on May 24, 2002, after leaving the Adelphia night club in Deptford.

Her body, with numerous stab wounded to the throat, head, chest, stomach and legs, was found four days later a wooded area near the Westwood Motor Lodge on Crown Point Road in West Deptford, where Mertz lived at the time.