Matthews, Lora and Morgan. The opinion of the court was delivered by Morgan, J.A.D.
[137 NJSuper Page 68] At approximately 8 P.M. on January 22, 1969 an unknown person, apparently a Caucasian male, armed with a gun, robbed D'Amico's Liquor Store in Magnolia, New Jersey. In the store at the time were the owner, Harry D'Amico, and a customer, Henry Colman. The perpetrator of this robbery wore a dark car coat and a white mask which covered his head and shoulders except for his eyes and the top of
his head. The incident took no more than five minutes and approximately $400 was taken from the store and placed in a brown bag. The intruder then fled through a side door.
Within minutes thereafter, Colman got into his car and searched the area for a car in which the intruder could possibly have fled. Observing a maroon car near the scene of the robbery, and seeing no other cars in the area, he followed it for some distance, noting that it was exceeding the speed limit and was being driven by a single white male with dark hair. He lost the car when it went through a red light, but not before he memorized its license plate number.
The police were summoned to the liquor store and both D'Amico and Colman (after he returned from his pursuit of the car) gave a general description of the intruder. According to this description, the robber was a white male with dark hair, between 5'8" and 5'10" in height, and weight between 160 and 180 lbs. He was wearing a dark coat, a white mask, and was carrying a gun and a brown bag. Colman informed the officer of his pursuit of the car and of its license plate number. About an hour and a half after the offense, the police in Magnolia stopped defendant's car, a maroon 1968 Chevelle, in the general vicinity of the liquor store because it matched the description given by Colman and bore a license plate number with the same digits as the one followed by Colman although in slightly different sequence. A search of the car revealed no money, gun, mask or bag.
Both D'Amico and Colman testified that although defendant fit their general recollection of the robber, they could make no positive identification because they never saw the robber's face.
Kathy Mayer, a ten-year-old girl who lived in close proximity to the liquor store, testified that at about the time of the robbery, while she and a girl friend were playing on a swing, she observed a man, whose head was covered by a white mask, running from the area of the liquor store close to the Mayer's property. He was carrying a brown bag and
was wearing a dark short coat. She observed this man run to a maroon car (which she had first seen earlier that afternoon on returning home from school at about 3 P.M.), fall over a wire on the way to it, get into the car, and drive backwards down the street. Her girl friend, Terri Chapman, gave similar testimony.
Kathy and Terri ran to the house of a neighbor, John Armstrong, to tell him what they had just seen. He ran out of his house in time to see the masked person get into a dark colored, streamline type, new model car, have difficulty getting it into gear, and drive it backwards down Cumberland Street without lights, where it then turned left. From the difficulty the driver had in getting the car into reverse gear, Armstrong concluded that it was equipped with a manual gear shift. When Armstrong later viewed the car driven by defendant, he observed that it was of the same general type as the car which was earlier driven away by the masked person seen by Kathy Mayer and her friend.
Officer Little of the Magnolia police force was the one who stopped defendant's car about an hour and a half after the robbery, within blocks of where it had occurred. He stopped it because it matched the general description of the car pursued by Colman and bore a license plate number containing the same digits as the vehicle previously followed by Colman, except in slightly different order. Little's testimony concerning an abrasion on one of defendant's legs, noted because of his information that the fleeing masked intruder tripped over a wire on the way to his car, completed the State's case.
Following denial of defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal, defendant produced the deposition testimony of Joseph A. Ialacci, a person bedridden with multiple sclerosis, for whom defendant had been caring. His deposition disclosed that defendant had been working for him on the day of the robbery and had ...