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State v. Perez

Decided: August 15, 1980.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

King, Francis and Greenberg. The opinion of the court was delivered by King, P.J.A.D.


[176 NJSuper Page 294] Defendant pleaded non vult to the charge of murder (N.J.S.A. 2A:113-1, 2) and received a life sentence. He appeals pursuant to R. 3:5-7(d), contending that the judge of the Law Division improperly denied his motion to suppress damning evidence, an 007 knife and a black leather jacket, seized incident to his arrest without a warrant on October 7, 1976 at about 1:30 a.m. in his apartment in Newark. Defendant contends that the arresting

officers did not have probable cause to apprehend him and that the fruits of the seizure incident to his unlawful arrest should have been suppressed. We conclude that the arresting officers did have probable cause to act under the exigent circumstances and affirm.

Three witnesses testified at the suppression hearing at which the State had the burden of justifying the warrantless arrest and the consequent seizure of the murder weapon and the jacket. State v. Whittington , 142 N.J. Super. 44, 52 (App.Div.1976). The murder occurred at about 7:30 p.m. on October 5, 1976. The body of the victim, Carmen Pabon, was found behind the Old Essex House Hotel in Newark shortly thereafter. There were seven stab wounds on the body.

Detective Percell Goodwin of the Newark Homicide Squad was assigned with two other detectives to the investigation at 11 a.m. on October 6. He was told that the body of a young Puerto Rican male had been found "behind the Old Essex House Hotel with multiple stab wounds." At about 7:30 p.m. on October 6 Goodwin and the two other detectives went to meet a prospective informant who had called police headquarters earlier that day claiming to have information about the murder. Goodwin met the informant, Angel Tirado, at the assigned rendezvous, a Howard Johnson motel parking lot on Routes 1 and 9 by the Newark airport at about 8 p.m. Tirado was not known to the police prior to this time. Goodwin said that Tirado told him that "the Perez boys had killed Carmen Pabon. He [Tirado] gave me the name of Israel [Popo] Perez, Cheeto Perez [the defendant] and he gave me the name of a fat kid. He did not know his last name but he told me he had escaped from the Youth House. He said he received this information from a friend." The friend was identified as Angel Garcia, also unknown to the police. The informant, Tirado, told the police "that Israel and the fat kid had held Carmen Pabon while Cheeto [the defendant] had stabbed" the victim. Garcia told Tirado that defendant himself admitted to Garcia that he did

the killing and actually showed him the murder weapon, the 007 knife. Tirado was also told by Garcia that defendant had been wearing "a long black leather coat" at the time of the murder.

A police record check on the suspects at headquarters did not turn up their correct full names or addresses. Goodwin stated the officers "went back on the streets. We started looking for people and informants." They returned to headquarters at 10:30 p.m., the investigation temporarily stymied. While at headquarters they spoke with an undisclosed informant who had given Goodwin reliable information about 10 to 15 times in the past which had led to arrests in narcotics investigations. This informant confirmed the Tirado tip that the two Perezes and the "fat guy" committed the murder. This informant established the real identity of the suspects, giving their correct names, i.e. , Israel (Popo) Perez, Ramon (Cheeto) Perez and Alberto (Fat Guy) Amberez. The correct names of the defendant and Amberez had not been known to the police until this time. The informant also gave the detectives the Perezes' address at 77 Lincoln Park and said that Amberez lived "on Broadway." A record check then disclosed Amberez's present address as 33 James Street but did reveal that his previous address was on Broadway.

At about 12:30 a.m. on October 7 Goodwin and his two partners went to 33 James Street. Alberto Amberez's mother answered the door. She confirmed that he lived there but said "she hadn't seen him in a couple of days." She consented to a search of the apartment which was unproductive.

Thereafter at about 1:30 a.m. the detectives went to 77 Lincoln Park, an apartment building. The superintendent took them to the Perez' fourth floor apartment. A woman answered the door, the police identified themselves and in response to a question she revealed that her sons Ramon and Israel Perez were in bed asleep. Goodwin testified that the woman "directed us to the bedroom. She motioned for us to come in. We went inside and closed the [front] door and she directed us to the

bedroom." She turned the lights on as the police entered the bedroom. Four people, including the three suspects, were asleep in two beds. On the foot of one bed in open view lay a long black leather jacket and an 007 knife. A gun was protruding from beneath defendant's pillow. ...

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