On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Indictment No. 01-12-3700.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 10, 2012
Before Judges Reisner and Yannotti.
Defendant David Amodio appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on November 12, 2010, denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.
Defendant was charged with first-degree murder of Kollin Pimental (Kollin), N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) or (2) (count one); first-degree murder of Lisa Pimental (Lisa), N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1) or (2) (count two); first-degree felony murder of Kollin, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3) (count three); first-degree felony murder of Lisa, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(3) (count four); first-degree aggravated arson, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a)(1) (count five); third-degree hindering his own apprehension or prosecution, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(1) (count six); and fourth-degree contempt of a domestic violence restraining order, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b) (count seven).
The evidence presented at trial established that in September 2000, defendant moved into a home in Sicklerville, New Jersey with his girlfriend Lisa and Kollin, her son by a previous relationship. After a domestic dispute that occurred on October 11, 2000, Lisa obtained a temporary restraining order which barred defendant from the home and having any contact with her.
Sometime after midnight on October 29, 2000, a neighbor reported a fire at the home, and observed defendant stumbling along the driveway. Defendant fell to the ground and said that his "wife" and the baby were in the house. According to a police officer who responded to the emergency call, defendant's clothes were on fire and he was "smoldering." Defendant was removed by ambulance and taken to a hospital. Later, the fire marshals found Lisa's and Kollin's burned bodies in the house. Parts of a broken hammer were found near Lisa's body.
The Camden County Medical Examiner performed autopsies on the victims' bodies. He testified that Lisa died from a depressed skull fracture that caused bleeding and bruising to the brain. The Medical Examiner also testified that Kollin died as a result of smoke inhalation and thermal burns, with no other contributing cause.
The Deputy Chief Fire Examiner for Camden County testified that he believed the fire was started with an accelerant and an open flame. He said that the fire began on the first floor of the house and traveled to the second floor. Tests revealed a residue of gasoline on the socks, jeans and sneakers that defendant was wearing at the time of the fire.
Defendant testified about the incident that led to the issuance of the temporary restraining order. Defendant said he was exercising and inadvertently caused Lisa to fall from the bed. He stated that, despite the restraining order, he met Lisa on October 19, 2000, in an effort to resolve their difficulties.
According to defendant, Lisa called him the next day to "work things out." He testified that, several days later, he accompanied Lisa to a store to purchase a washing machine and clothes dryer. Defendant installed the machines in the house. Defendant further testified that, the week before the fire, he performed work around the house.
Defendant also said that on the morning of October 28, 2000, he provided money to Lisa for her car payment, and purchased new tires for Lisa's car. Defendant helped Lisa and Kollin decorate the house for Halloween. Later, defendant and Lisa ordered Chinese food and watched television.
Defendant left the house sometime after midnight. He testified he went to the shed in the rear of the house to get some tools for repairs he was going to make at his father's house. Defendant was returning to the shed when he saw the fire. He denied doing anything to hurt Lisa or Kollin.
The jury found defendant not guilty of the murder of Kollin as charged in count one, but found him guilty of the lesser-included offense of first-degree aggravated manslaughter. The jury found defendant not guilty of the murder of Lisa, as charged in count two, but found him guilty of second-degree passion/provocation manslaughter.
The jury additionally found defendant guilty of first-degree felony murder of Kollin, as charged in count three; not guilty of felony murder of Lisa, as charged in count four; not guilty of first-degree arson, as charged in count five, but guilty of the lesser-included offense of third-degree arson; guilty of hindering his own apprehension or prosecution, as charged in count six; and guilty of contempt, as charged in count seven.
At sentencing, the trial court merged counts one and five with count three, and sentenced defendant to life imprisonment on count three, with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility. The court imposed a consecutive term of ten years on count two, with a period of parole ineligibility as prescribed by the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. The ...