A Medford man was sentenced to 40 years in prison yesterday for fatally choking a woman in her Evesham home during a burglary, then dumping her body in Schuylkill County, Pa., where the skeletal remains were found seven months later.
Marianne DeMartin's friends and family members agonized over her 2005 disappearance for 2½ years before the identification of the remains and the subsequent arrest of Alex James Crow.
In a Burlington County courtroom filled with close to 20 members of DeMartin's family, Debbie Gore described the period of wondering what had happened to her sister as a "nightmare from which we'll never wake up."
Calling the crimes heinous and outrageous, First Assistant Prosecutor Raymond Milavsky said Crow dumped the body of DeMartin, 52, "like it was yesterday's garbage."
Crow, 33, was sentenced in accordance with a guilty plea he entered before Superior Court Judge Patricia R. LeBon in October, after his public defender requested the prison term be reduced to 30 years.
He must serve 34 years before being eligible for parole on the charge of first-degree murder.
"Mr. Crow has always expressed deep remorse for what happened," said Donald Ackerman, the public defender. "He's been very emotional with me."
The defendant's voice was barely audible as he apologized to DeMartin's family.
According to Ackerman, alcohol and drug addiction fueled Crow's actions on the day of the killing, Sept. 23, 2005. In pursuit of keys to steal a car at the Sagemore Drive complex where DeMartin lived alone and where he worked as a landscaper, Crow slipped through DeMartin's unlocked door while she was sleeping.
A struggle ensued when she awoke. He strangled her.
Crow spent the rest of the night in her home, taking a digital camera, clothes and other belongings before placing her body in the trunk of her Ford Mustang and driving to Schuylkill County to see his girlfriend. He left the body in a rural area and removed Pennsylvania license tags from an abandoned vehicle nearby, which he then affixed to DeMartin's car.
Authorities soon recovered the car - with its New Jersey plates again intact - in the parking lot of a Voorhees shopping center. Crow was arrested in November 2005 for stealing another car, where police found the stolen Pennsylvania license plates. A family stumbled across DeMartin's remains in Pennsylvania the following year.
Authorities eventually linked a DNA profile obtained from Crow for the car theft to evidence from DeMartin's car, and used dental records to identify her remains.
"It's difficult," her father, Richard DeMartin, said in court, "to describe the hurt that this act has caused. . . . Forty years is not a sufficient penalty, but we accept that."