Prosecutor: Dad killed boy to continue romantic relationship

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — The father of a 3-year-old boy found dead in a park last year killed him because he had become an impediment to his relationship with a teenage girlfriend, prosecutors said Tuesday at his arraignment on murder charges.

David Creato Jr., 22, also faces child endangerment charges in the death of Brendan Creato. He faces a possible life sentence if he's convicted on the murder charge.

The child's body was found Oct. 13 in Cooper River Park about three hours after Creato reported him missing from his Haddon Township home. When Creato called 911, he said he had woken up around 6 a.m. and soon realized the boy was gone.

"I don't know if he wandered out or what happened," Creato told the operator. "I don't know where he is. The door was locked. I guess he unlocked it and left."

The 911 call prompted a townwide search until the boy's body was found.

Speaking in court Tuesday, prosecutors said the child had suffered "homicidal violence" akin to smothering or strangulation. They also said there were indications the boy was deprived of oxygen and had some bruising.

According to prosecutors, Creato's 17-year-old girlfriend resented his dealings with the boy's mother, with whom he shared custody. They said Creato acted in a rage of jealousy because his girlfriend had told him the weekend before the boy's death that she planned to end their relationship and he feared she would date someone else.

Creato's bail was set at $750,000. His attorney, Richard Fuschino Jr., had sought a lower amount, calling the prosecution's case circumstantial and "weak." He also noted that Creato had been cooperative with investigators.

After his client was arrested Monday, Fuschino claimed that authorities pointed to Creato because pressure was mounting from the public to identify a suspect and because there were no other obvious clues in the case. He said he worried that the indictment "is the result of just not having any other answers."

Creato and Brendan's mother, Samantha Denoto, do not live together. She attended Tuesday's court hearing but declined to comment afterward. Her family has said they won't comment on Creato's arrest.