A Jan. 9 trial date has been set for a South Jersey man charged with killing his young son because his girlfriend allegedly disliked children.
The murder trial for David "D.J." Creato Jr. of Haddon Township was scheduled to begin Monday but was delayed to allow the defense additional time to gather expert testimony.
"That will be a firm date," said Superior Court Judge John T. Kelley. Creato did not comment during the brief hearing.
Defense attorney Richard J. Fuschino Jr. told reporters that he requested more time to secure a report from a forensic medical examiner.
"It's a shame for this father, who now stands accused of a crime he didn't commit," Fuschino said outside the courthouse in Camden. "We want this case over with as soon as possible, but we don't want to be hasty."
Creato, 23, is charged in the death last year of his son, Brendan, 3. The boy's pajama-clad body was found by a K-9 unit in a wooded area near his home on Oct. 13, 2015.
He reported his son missing from his apartment near Cooper Street and Virginia Avenue in Westmont three hours before the boy's body was found slumped over a rock, partially submerged in a creek.
Prosecutors have said that Brendan died of "homicidal violence," and that an examination of his brain showed an abnormality consistent with oxygen deprivation that can be caused by asphyxiation, drowning, or strangulation.
An exact cause of death was never determined.
Fuschino said he needed more time to obtain the forensic expert's report. The expert may play a key role in the trial.
"When you have someone sitting in custody, it's the last thing you want," Fushcino said of the trial delay. "This is something we don't do lightly."
In May, Fuschino sought to have the indictment against Creato dismissed, arguing that the medical examiner in the case misled a grand jury and conducted a sloppy investigation. The judge denied the motion.
Fuschino, in that hearing, called Camden County Medical Examiner Gerald Feigin a "disgrace," and said Feigin should have inspected the wooded area the same day that Brendan's body was found there, not five days later. Prosecutors maintain that Feigin followed the law and acted properly.
Prosecutors have alleged that Creato killed Brendan to stop his 17-year-old girlfriend from leaving him. The girlfriend has not been charged. She was at Pace University in New York City when Brendan died, authorities said.
In an interview with detectives the day his son's body was found, Creato said his girlfriend did not like that he had a child with another woman, and that they broke up several times after quarreling about it.
The defense lost a bid to block prosecutors from using the statement as evidence. Fuschino argued that investigators misled Creato and never told him he was a suspect.
Kelley ruled the interview admissible for the trial, finding that Creato seemed cooperative and seemed anxious to speak with the investigators.
In the video of the interview, Creato is shown crying as he learns from detectives that his son was dead. Prosecutors contend the reaction was rehearsed.
Brendan's mother, Samantha Denoto, did not live with Creato. She left Monday's hearing without comment.
David Creato Sr. said he speaks with his son every day and that his son's life has gone "from normal to total craziness." He urged the public to "dissect and question why."
"There's no rhyme or reason. There's no reason why this father would take his son's life," the elder Creato said. "There's no motive."
To mark the one year anniversary of Brendan's death, a Mass is scheduled for Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. at Holy Savior Church in Westmont, said D.J.'s mother, Lisa Creato.
"Brendan was a very loving kid and he was loved by many," the boy's grandfather said.
A grand jury in January indicted Creato on charges of murder and endangering the welfare of a child. He remains at the Camden County Jail on $750,000 bail.