Prosecutors sought to show jurors Thursday that authorities had tested DNA and performed an exhaustive investigation before charging David "D.J." Creato Jr. with killing his 3-year-old son, Brendan, in Haddon Township.
None of the scientific evidence implicates Creato in Brendan's death — which Creato's attorney, Richard J. Fuschino Jr., quickly pointed out.
Still, prosecutors have tried to detail every investigative step, as they show why the case relies solely on circumstantial evidence. Thursday was the seventh day of testimony in the trial in Superior Court in Camden.
Prosecutors say the evidence is compelling. Creato regularly visited the woods where Brendan's body was found. Creato's girlfriend, whom he met on the dating app Tinder, voiced displeasure about having to spend time with Brendan — whom she called a "mistake" — and had considered breaking up with Creato.
Brendan's socks were also clean, suggesting he had not walked three-quarters of a mile from his father's apartment to woods near South Park Drive and Cooper Street.
But no video surveillance shows Creato taking the boy there. Nor do any witnesses claim to have seen him.
In a brutal round of questioning Wednesday, the medical examiner who ruled Brendan had died of "homicidal violence" — partly citing swelling in Brendan's brain and the clean socks — also acknowledged he couldn't determine whether Brendan died in the woods or elsewhere.
Camden County Medical Examiner Gerald Feigin also couldn't determine at what time Brendan died, or whether asphyxiation, drowning, or strangulation — each of which can cause lack of oxygen to the brain — caused Brendan's death.
Charles Siebert, a colleague in Feigin's office who also examined Brendan's body, acknowledged the unknown cause of death in testimony Thursday. "We don't know exactly what it was," Siebert said, calling the case difficult. "But we know it wasn't natural."
Several forensic experts also testified about how they tested bloodstains found on the bathroom floor of Creato's one-bedroom apartment.
The dried blood belonged to Creato. Some also belonged to his then-girlfriend, Julia Stensky. She was at Pace University in New York when Brendan died and has not been charged.
"This DNA from the bathroom floor definitely wasn't Brendan Creato's," Fuschino said.
"That's correct," said Jennifer Banaag, who works in the DNA lab of the New Jersey State Police, which analyzed the samples.
Forensic scientists also tested cigarettes that investigators found in the woods. The scientists were unable to determine whose DNA was on the cigarettes but concluded it was not Creato's.
Creato called 911 to report his son missing around 6 a.m. on Oct. 13, 2015. Two police officers, following a K-9 that tracked Brendan's scent, found the boy's pajamas-clad body slumped over a rock just before 9 a.m.
Creato was arrested three months later, after a grand jury concluded there was enough evidence to charge him with murder.