On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 05-11-2403.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: January 14, 2009
Before Judges Cuff and C.L. Miniman.
Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of first degree attempted murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and 2C:11-3a(1), (2) (Count One); second degree aggravated assault (serious bodily injury), N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1) (Count Two); third degree threat to kill, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3b (Count Three); fourth degree unlawful possession of a weapon (a knife), N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d (Count Four); third degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d (Count Five); and fourth degree contempt of a final domestic violence restraining order, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9b (Count Six). The victim was defendant's former wife. As a result of the assault that formed the factual basis of these charges, the victim was stabbed seven times.
After merging Count Two with Count One, the judge imposed a twenty-year term of imprisonment with an 85% NERA*fn1 parole disqualifier. Concurrent terms of five years were imposed on Counts Three and Five, and a concurrent term of eighteen months was imposed on Count Four. The judge imposed a consecutive eighteen-month term with a nine-month period of parole ineligibility on Count Six, for an aggregate term of twenty-one and one-half years. The appropriate penalties, assessments and restitution were also imposed.
Mary Barry and Brian Hoffman married in December 1985 and divorced in February 1993. Two daughters were born of the marriage. The marriage and the period during marital separation were stormy. Defendant left New Jersey in 1993 and his family did not see him again until 2005.
In the summer of 2005, Margaret Hoffman, daughter of defendant and Barry, was a student at Stockton State College. Her sister Tara worked at Charlie's Bar and Restaurant (Charlie's) in Somers Point. In July 2005, Margaret visited Tara at Charlie's and then drove to visit her brother Tim.
As Margaret left Charlie's parking lot, she noticed a green Ford F-150 truck behind her. Throughout her trip, she noticed that the truck was following. She also noticed that each time she looked in her rearview window, the driver of the truck looked down. More troublesome to her was that the green truck followed her as she made a complicated turn, drove down a local road, and reappeared as she left a convenience store. She was able to discern that the truck bore Florida license plates. As she arrived at her brother's, the green truck continued on its way.
After she left her brother and returned to Charlie's, Margaret told her sister what occurred. Later, she talked to her mother about the incident. Her mother advised her to call the police, indicating it could be her father. Margaret disagreed and even though she was afraid, did not tell the police until the day after the attack on her mother.
On September 7, 2005, Barry was residing with Margaret and Tara at her home at 14 North Village Drive in Somers Point. At about 10:00 a.m., Barry was outside doing light yard work. A green truck pulled up in front of the house and a man emerged. This was not unusual because people frequently lost their way when they entered her subdivision and stopped to ask directions.
As the man approached her, however, Barry recognized defendant and also observed that he had a knife in his hand. When she saw the knife, realizing she was alone but that her next door neighbor was home, she began to run across her property. As she did so, she experienced back spasms and defendant caught her at the neighbor's driveway. He grabbed her by the hair and stabbed her. The victim testified she felt the knife penetrate her body. She felt a total of seven stab wounds, three to her neck and four to her back. While defendant stabbed her, he stated he was going to kill the rest of the family after he killed her.
Defendant also threw Barry down and started to drag her along the ground. Believing that defendant was attempting to drag her to the vehicle parked in the driveway, she clung to the bumper even as she felt the knife enter her body again.
In addition to stabbing Barry, defendant beat her brutally. He kicked her, ripped both hoop earrings from her earlobes, and smashed her head on the curb. She ...