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S.M v. J.O

April 7, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FV-07-3394-09Y.

Per curiam.


Submitted January 25, 2011

Before Judges Carchman and Waugh.

Defendant J.O. (Jerome)*fn1 appeals from the final restraining order (FRO) entered by the Family Part pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (DV Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. We affirm.


We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.

S.M. (Sarah) and Jerome were in a dating relationship from October 2007 until April 2008. On April 3, 2008, Jerome was watching Sarah's four-year old son, J.H. (Jason). The following morning, when Sarah picked Jason up from Jerome's residence, he was bruised and ill. Jason died a few hours later.

Jerome was arrested and charged with aggravated manslaughter in connection with Jason's death. Sarah then ceased all contact with Jerome. She told his parents that she did not want to be contacted by them or him. In June 2008, Jerome was released on bail pending trial.

On June 25, 2009, Sarah filed a complaint against Jerome, seeking the protection of the DV Act. The complaint alleged that, at 7:30 p.m. on June 23, 2009, Jerome harassed her by coming to her residence unannounced and uninvited with two other male friends. When [Sarah] exited from her car [Jerome] and his friends began looking into her car. [Sarah's] neighbor then approached [Jerome] who quickly ran into his vehicle and drove past [Sarah], looking at [her] in a menacing manner.

Sarah also alleged that Jerome had "also been seen on numerous occasions, driving by her grandmother's home" and had been seen by her neighbor driving by Sarah's car and house. A temporary restraining order was issued on the basis of Sarah's complaint.

The plenary hearing was held on August 11, 2009. Sarah testified that she was living with her mother in Belleville when Jerome was released from jail in late June 2008. About a week after his release, Sarah saw him, accompanied by his father and three other men, at a Quick Check store across the street from her mother's home. She testified that Jerome looked across the street at the house, went into the store, and then continued to look across the street at the house after exiting the store. Sarah observed him standing outside her mother's home for approximately five minutes.

Sarah moved to her grandmother's house in Newark after seeing Jerome near her mother's home. After he also appeared near her grandmother's home, Sarah moved to her father and stepmother's home in Bayonne. Jerome subsequently appeared near the residence in Bayonne.

Sarah testified that she had not provided Jerome with the address, and that she had told her family not to inform him where she was residing. Sarah stated that she moved from Bayonne back to Newark in October 2008 because she was afraid of Jerome.

Sarah further testified that she was walking to her house in Newark on June 23, 2009, when she saw Jerome and a friend in a car parked near the front of her house. According to Sarah, they "were with another car as well. You could tell they were together, like they [were] making noise and all this stuff. And I looked at him and he looked at me in a menacing way, and he smiled like yea, I know where you live now." Jerome and his friends then drove away.

That same evening, shortly after Sarah went into the house, her neighbor, J.G. (Jeff), informed her that he had just seen people around her car. Jeff testified that, as he was parking on the same street that Sarah had parked on, he observed two cars double-parked around her car. Jeff asked the three men standing around Sarah's car what they were doing. They responded that the car was not his, and drove away. Jeff identified Jerome as the passenger in one of the cars. He testified that he recognized one of the cars based on a sticker on the back of the car, and that he had seen the car in the neighborhood three or four times between late May and mid-July 2009. Jeff testified that he had not seen Jerome in the area prior to May 2009.

Sarah told the judge that she was seeking the FRO because she was "afraid for [her] life." She told the judge that she had testified before the grand jury that returned the indictment charging Jerome with aggravated manslaughter. In addition, she was scheduled to testify for the prosecution in Jerome's trial.*fn2

Sarah's brother, A.M. (Alex), testified that Jerome approached him during the summer of 2008 and asked him where Sarah was residing. Alex also maintained that he refused to tell Jerome where Sarah was living ...

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