The discovery of three-year-old Brendan Creato's pajama-clad body in woods near the Cooper River in 2015 stirred fear in the Camden County community of Haddon Township. Many questions remain as Brendan's father,  David "D.J." Creato, who has been charged with the murder of his son, goes on trial. Here is what you should know.

Timeline of events

Oct. 13, 2015 — 6:07 a.m.

David "D.J." Creato Jr. calls 911 to report his three-year-old son, Brendan, missing. Creato tells dispatchers he woke up and Brendan was gone. Police and residents in Haddon Township search cars, yards, and inside plastic Halloween pumpkins.

Oct. 13, 2015 — 8:43 a.m.

A police dog tracks Brendan’s scent using one of his Mickey Mouse slippers, and discovers the boy’s pajama-clad body slumped over a rock in a wooded area about three-quarters of a mile from his father's apartment.

Oct. 13, 2015 — 9:26 a.m.

D.J. Creato enters a questioning room at the Haddon Township Police Department, but has not yet been told about the discovery of Brendan’s body. At one point, Creato asks if authorities have found his son. Capt. Willie Mahan of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office knows that they have, but says no. Mahan asks whether Creato is withholding information, which Creato denies.

 Oct. 13, 2015  — 10:17 a.m.

Detectives tell Creato his son has been found dead. "Oh, God, no, no, no!” he yells.

Oct. 13-16, 2015

Three doctors perform autopsies on Brendan’s body. While none are able to determine an exact cause of death, Camden County Medical Examiner Gerald Feigin concludes it was not an accident.

Jan. 11, 2016

D.J. Creato is arrested in Washington Township and charged with murder.

Jan. 12, 2016

At an arraignment, prosecutors say Creato killed Brendan to stop his 17-year-old girlfriend, who disliked children, from leaving him. A judge orders Creato be held on $750,000 bail.

May 16, 2016

Creato’s attorney, Richard J. Fuschino Jr., calls Feigin, the medical examiner, “a disgrace,” and accuses Feigin of running a sloppy investigation into Brendan’s death. Prosecutors say Feigin followed procedure, and a judge dismisses Fuschino’s bid to have the indictment against his client dismissed.

Oct. 3, 2016

Fuschino requests more time to obtain a forensic expert's report, and the judge pushes the trial's start date to Jan. 9, 2017. It is then pushed again to April, when a judge tentatively grants the prosecution's request to have jurors visit the area where Brendan's body was found.

April 18, 2017

The jury selection process begins.

David "D.J." Creato Jr.: He is charged with killing his three-year-old son, Brendan. Creato worked at his father’s window business and lived in a second-floor apartment near Cooper Street and Virginia Avenue in Haddon Township, where Brendan was last seen.


Brendan Link Creato: His pajama-clad body was found in Haddon Township woods on Oct. 13, 2015. Prosecutors said he died of “homicidal violence,” but were unable to pinpoint an exact cause of death. 


Samantha Denoto: Brendan’s mother, who did not live with D.J. Creato. She has sat opposite from D.J.’s family in court. Denoto's family said after Brendan was found that they were "heartbroken," but had no answers about his death.


Julia Stensky: D.J. Creato’s girlfriend, now 19. Prosecutors said she disliked children, and that D.J. Creato killed his son to stop her from leaving him. Stensky, of Feasterville, Bucks County,  was away at college when Brendan died, and has not been charged in this case, authorities said. Stensky met D.J. Creato in June 2015 through the dating app Tinder.


David Sr. and Lisa Creato: D.J. Creato’s parents, and Brendan’s grandparents. They have stood by their son. “We support our son 100 percent,” David Sr. said last year. He and his wife often attend their son's court hearings.

Richard J. Fuschino Jr.: The defense attorney. He worked on the defense teams of two priests, the Rev. James J. Brennan and the Rev. Andrew McCormick, accused in a child sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2011. Mistrials were declared in both cases after jurors failed to reach a verdict. Brennan later received probation after reaching a deal with prosecutors before a retrial.  

Christine Shah: The prosecutor. Shah joined the Camden County Prosecutor's Office in 1997, and often prosecutes the county's most heinous crimes. She successfully sought a life sentence in 2014 for Osvaldo Rivera, a Camden man who slashed a girl's throat on her 12th birthday and killed her 6-year-old brother.

Gerald Feigin: The medical examiner. He has testified in numerous murder trials in Camden, Gloucester, and Salem Counties. Feigin was unable to determine an exact cause of death for Brendan, but pointed to the boy’s clean socks as evidence somebody had placed him in the woods where his body was found.

What to Expect:

The defense will likely go after Gerald Feigin, the medical examiner who ruled that Brendan’s death was not an accident. Creato’s attorney, Richard J. Fuschino Jr., has called Feigin “a disgrace,” accused Feigin of lying to a grand jury, and said he failed to go to the wooded area where Brendan’s body was found until five days after the discovery. 

The prosecution will likely detail some of the 9,487 text messages Creato exchanged with his girlfriend, Julia Stensky, after meeting her in June 2015 on Tinder. Prosecutors have said Stensky dislikes children, and that Creato killed Brendan so she wouldn’t leave him. 

The trial will unfold with no one knowing Brendan’s exact cause of death. Prosecutors said his brain showed an abnormality consistent with oxygen deprivation that can be caused by asphyxiation, drowning, or manual strangulation. But no one has been able to pinpoint which of the three may have led to Brendan’s death.