Cop Killer Trial Witness Changes Story, Trial Resumes
TOMS RIVER — A Camden woman, testifying Wednesday at the trial of the man accused of murdering Lakewood police officer Christopher Matlosz, changed her story about what she overheard the defendant say regarding the officer’s death.
Angel Howard previously had told authorities that she overheard Jahmell Crockam tell her boyfriend he had killed a cop, when Crockam came to her apartment at about 5:20 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2011, the day Matlosz was fatally shot in Lakewood.
But when asked Wednesday in court about the conversation she overheard that day, Howard said that she heard Crockam say “that he was wanted … he was being searched for.”
Chief Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor William J. Heisler asked the witness if she heard Crockam say he was on the run.
“Yeah, he said it was about a cop, about a cop getting shot,” Howard said. “I don’t remember what it was, but it was about a cop.”
Heisler confronted the witness with a transcript of a previous statement she had given detectives, and asked her to read what she had told the detectives Crockam said the day he showed up at her apartment.
“He killed a cop,” Howard responded, referring to the transcript.
However, the witness backpedaled from that statement when cross-examined by defense attorney Mark Fury, and she never budged from her newly changed story, even under intense questioning from Heisler.
“Did Mr. Crockam tell your boyfriend that he shot and killed a cop?” Fury asked Howard.
“No, that he was wanted for killing a cop,” Howard responded. “I did not hear him say, ‘I shot a cop, I killed a cop.’ I heard him say he was wanted for killing a cop.”
Asked how she could have confused the two statements, Howard replied that she was high when she gave a statement to police the first time.
Heisler again confronted her with her previous comments to detectives, pointing out that she told them that she overheard Crockam tell her boyfriend he shot the police officer three times while he was in his patrol car.
“Did he say that in the apartment?” Heisler asked.
“No,” she insisted, telling the jury she learned that information afterward, either from news accounts or hearing people talk about the incident.
Questioned by Fury, Howard said she was only telling the detectives what she thought they wanted to hear.
Crockam is on trial before Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels, charged with Matlosz’s murder.
Matlosz, 27, a Manchester resident and 4½-year veteran of the Lakewood police force, was shot three times at close range as he sat in his patrol car on August Drive in Lakewood, about 4 p.m.
Howard testified that Crockam was like a brother to her, but she knew him only by his street name, “Sav.”
She said there was conversation in her apartment that day about concern that the woman who drove Crockam there – Danielle Bergamotto, known as “D-Block” – would tell police where Crockam was hiding.
Crockam spent that Friday night and all day Saturday, into Sunday, at her apartment, Howard testified. On Sunday morning, Jan. 16, 2011, police came to her apartment looking for Crockam, shortly after she had just returned home and gotten undressed, she said.
“I got slammed on my neck,” Howard testified. “The police looked like ninjas, dressed in all black and face masks.”
Heisler asked her if the police showed her a picture of Crockam and inquired if he was there.
“I was slammed on the ground on the snow and ice, so I don’t think I answered them,” she replied.
In other testimony Wednesday, Detective Valerie Seiser, a latent fingerprint examiner with the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, testified that two fingerprints found on Bergamotto’s car were Crockam’s.
Earlier, Detective Stephen Capaono of the sheriff’s criminal investigation unit testified about finding the fingerprints on Bergamotto’s car. Capaono also testified that no DNA matching the slain officer was found on the clothing Crockam was wearing when he was arrested, or on additional clothing seized from Howard’s apartment and Bergamotto’s car.
Capaono narrated a series of photographs and a video of the crime scene for the jury. The images included Matlosz’s bloodied car, as well as a photograph of his personal effects – his badge, a gold chain with a medallion, silver bracelet, debit card, business cards and a notebook.
The trial is scheduled to resume today.
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