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State v. Jenewicz

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 16, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
GEORGE JENEWICZ, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 16, 2011

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 99-01-0031.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Karen E. Truncale, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief).

Bruce J. Kaplan, Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Nancy A. Hulett, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Appellant filed a pro se supplemental brief.

Before Judges Fuentes, Harris and Koblitz.

OPINION

FUENTES, P.J.A.D.

Defendant George Jenewicz was tried before a jury and convicted of murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1)(2), second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a), and third degree hindering apprehension, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b). After merging the murder conviction with the second degree conviction for weapons possession, the court sentenced defendant to a term of life imprisonment with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility, and a consecutive term of five years, with two-and-a-half years of parole ineligibility, for the hindering apprehension conviction.

On direct appeal, we affirmed the conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion, State v. Jenewicz, Docket No. A-0013-02 (App. Div. Aug. 8, 2006). The Supreme Court granted defendant's petition for certification, State v. Jenewicz, 189 N.J. 103 (2006), and thereafter reversed the murder conviction and remanded the matter for a new trial. State v. Jenewicz, 193 N.J. 440 (2008).

Defendant was retried before a jury over the course of seven days in September 2008 on the charges of murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1)(2), and second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a). The jury found defendant guilty of both charges. The trial court again sentenced defendant to life imprisonment with a thirty-year period of parole ineligibility, and awarded defendant 1, 597 days of jail time credit pursuant to Rule 3:21-8.

Defendant now appeals this second conviction. We affirm. We gather the following facts from the evidence presented to the jury at the second trial.

I

Defendant committed these crimes almost fifteen years ago. At approximately 9:30 in the evening of October 30, 1998, Iwan Terenin and Leonid Chernyavskiy drove to the Borough of South River Police Department to report what they believed was evidence of a dead body at defendant's residence on Cleveland Avenue. In response, Police Officer John Casey[1] and five other South River police officers drove Terenin and Chernyavskiy to defendant's residence. Casey did not disclose to the jury the reasons that prompted him and five of his fellow officers to respond to this location.[2]

After Terenin and Chernyavskiy confirmed that this was the house in question, Casey deployed three officers to the rear of the residence, while he and two other officers "went to the front door." According to Casey, when he knocked on the door, "[a]ll the lights were out in the residence." Defendant answered the door "[a]fter a short period of time." Casey told defendant he and his fellow officers wanted to speak to him. At Casey's request, defendant permitted him and three other officers to come inside the house.

Overruling defense counsel's objection, presumably on hearsay grounds, the trial judge permitted Casey to testify that he told defendant "that the two witnesses pointed out his house, that there was possibly a dead body located in that residence of . . . Cleveland Avenue." Casey also asked defendant "if [he] could look around the residence to see if there was a dead body in the residence." Casey testified that immediately after defendant consented to his request "to look around, " defendant said: "that fucking bitch and immediately urinated himself to the point where there was a puddle on the floor."

Based on defendant's reaction, the officers at the scene began searching defendant's home. The search soon ended when one of the officers told Casey to go "to the basement area." As he descended the staircase that lead to the basement, Casey "smelled an extremely foul odor coming from the basement area." Because the basement was "pretty dark, " the officers used their ¶ashlights to search the area. Casey and two other officers eventually found "a gray metal garbage can with a black bag sticking up out of the garbage can." The can was located underneath the basement stairwell.

Casey asked one of the officers to use a knife to "cut the garbage bag open" in order to see what it contained. Although not entirely discernible at first, upon closer inspection Casey and the two other officers with him "observed what appeared to be human legs and feet." At this point, Casey "immediately returned upstairs and met [defendant] at which time I read him his Miranda[3] rights." The prosecutor asked Casey to identify a number of photographs that depicted the basement area and the garbage can where the human remains were found. Casey also identified a number of other photographs depicting aerial views of the area adjacent to defendant's house and the neighborhood surrounding the property, including "Varga Park, " also known at one time as "Pacer's Field."

In addition to verbally informing defendant of his constitutional rights under Miranda at his residence, Casey testified that he "administered his Miranda rights again" after defendant arrived at the South River police headquarters. Casey wrote "10/30/98 at 10:20 p.m." on the Miranda card he read to defendant at the police station. By this time, defendant was clearly in police custody; he had been placed in handcuffs and his person had been searched incident to his arrest.

After completing this preliminary process, Casey notified the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office Major Crimes Unit, his superiors within his own department, and the Medical Examiner's office. Law Enforcement personnel soon arrived at the crime scene with illumination equipment and additional officers and investigators were dispatched to search the area around defendant's residence. No relevant evidence was found that night.

South River Police Officer Edward Avallon was one of the officers who initially responded to defendant's residence and accompanied Casey to the basement. Avallon corroborated Casey's testimony in all material respects. Avallon also testified that he found a "pocket knife" on defendant's person. South River Police Officer John J. McKenna was also present at defendant's residence on the night in question. He likewise corroborated Casey's and Avallon's testimony as to their interactions with defendant.

South River Police Lieutenant Mark Tinitigan fingerprinted and photographed defendant at the police station on the night of his arrest. Tinitigan testified that at some point while he was taking defendant's fingerprints and photographing him for purposes of his arrest, defendant asked him: "what kind of firearms does the South River Police Department carry[?]" Tinitigan responded: "we carry a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun." According to Tinitigan, without further inquiry or comment by him, defendant stated "that he carried a .357 and replied that's what he used to kill her with."

Tinitigan testified that he "immediately stopped doing what I was doing. I Mirandized him. I gave him Miranda rights." In response to the prosecutor's question, Tinitigan identified a "Miranda rights card" with the date "October 30th of 1998, " and the time "11:08 [p.m.]" Tinitigan testified that he read to defendant the Miranda warnings written on the reverse side of the card. According to Tinitigan, he asked defendant if he understood what he had read to him and then asked him to sign the card. Defendant replied that he would not sign the card "because he wouldn't be able to talk."

According to Tinitigan, defendant "explained that she [the victim] was always assaulting him because he wouldn't allow her to buy drugs and that she would never assault him ever again because he killed her -- I'm sorry, because she is dead." Tinitigan also testified that defendant never called the victim by name, always using a pronoun like "her" instead. Tinitigan also said defendant identified himself as a "biologist" and a "hunter, " and claimed to know how to "chop up a body and that he chopped up the body into pieces and it would never be found."

At approximately one o'clock in the morning on October 31, 1998, three days after defendant's initial arrest, South River Police Officer Gary Migut and Middlesex County Prosecutor's Investigator John Maslak again apprised defendant of his constitutional rights under Miranda before they began asking him questions concerning his involvement with the alleged homicide. Defendant signed the Miranda card documenting his understanding of those rights, and acknowledging his decision to waive his rights and voluntarily answer the investigators' questions concerning his involvement in this crime.

Officer Migut testified that before the interrogation began, defendant asked if he was going to jail. Migut stated that both Maslak and he told defendant that he would probably go to jail. At this point, Migut testified that defendant responded: "she's fucking up my house, there's spackling everywhere." After conducting what law enforcement agents in 1998 called "a pre-interview, " Migut testified that defendant agreed to give "an audiotape statement" that allegedly repeated what he had just told Migut during the pre-interview.[4]

Defendant made the following statements during the recorded part of the interrogation.

Q. Well, I can't tell you whether you're, what you just described, but what I want to do is get in your own words what happened ten days ago. If you're willing to give me a statement.
A. She went nuts on me.
Q. Okay. When did she go nuts on you, when did this occur?
A. That . . . she did it a bunch of times. I got knots on my head, I got bruises, I got . . . I'm bent out of shape. She would hit me with sticks and shit like that. Basically it was like, like a self-defense type of thing.
Q. Okay.
A. Alright?
Q. Okay. So bringing your attention back to last Thursday . . .
A. Yes.
Q. Okay.
A. She was going out again.
Q. Okay. When you refer to she, what was her name.
A. Um, well I called her Nadine.
Q. Okay.
A. Her name is Eunice.
Q. Do you know her last name?
A. Uh, Gillens.
Q. Okay. Now did Eunice live with you at your address?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. Approx . . . .
A. Part time actually, but . . . uh, yeah.
Q. How long did she live there?
A. Five months – almost.
Q. Almost five months?
A. Yeah.
Q. And bringing your attention back to the 22nd, [of October 1998] which was last Thursday, did you have an argument with Nadine?
A. She inspired arguments, which would take her out of the home to pursue her hobbies. Alright? I'll describe them as that. Alright? And . . . it was just a . . . it was like twice a month. It was a regular happening. I mean . . .
Q. Okay. So you argued quite a bit. Okay.
A. She had to pursue this.
Q. Okay. Tell me what happened last Thursday, to the best of your . . .
A. Yeah, Yeah, to the best of my knowledge? Um, Yeah. We had an argument. To simplify it, she went for a gun, which she's done before, and I just picked up another one . . . I, I have a number of guns, picked up a number . . . and I just, I shot.
Q. And did you, did it strike Nadine?
A. Yes, it did.
Q. Do you know where it struck her?
A. Yes I do.
Q. Can you tell us where that was?
A. Bulls eye in the chest.
Q. In the chest area?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay and then what happened? Tell me exactly what occurred from that point on.
A. She went right down. It was a heavy caliber load. In fact, 158 grain. She lay on the floor. She went right down instantly. And I tried to revive her, this and that. And being a hunter, I know, you know, it was over. I knew it was over. So I just uh, helped. I still tried to pound on her chest. I tried to bring her back, this and that, and it didn't . . . there was . . . I knew she was dead.
Q. Okay, and then what did you do?
A. Took her down the basement.
Q. Okay, and what occurred in the basement?
A. She just laid there, you know, I just let her lay there, and I thought about it. It was like holy shit! What the fuck did I do to . . . you know. I'm not that kind of guy. What did I do? So, I tried to hide it. You know, go that way. Severed her head, severed her arms.
Q. Okay. Um. Where did you put the remaining portion of Nadine?
A. Uh, remaining? You found the remaining, you know . . .
Q. You stated you severed her head and her arms?
A. Yeah.
Q. What did you use to do that?
A. A saw, an axe.
Q. Okay. Do you recall where you left ...

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