Murder, Rape Charges Dropped In Rutherford Woman's Beating Death After Judge Rejects DNA Proof

Murder and rape charges were dropped against a Guatemalan national accused of killing a 50-year-old Rutherford woman more than six years ago after a judge refused to allow prosecutors to use DNA evidence against him.

Rafael Camey, Karen Splettstoesser
Rafael Camey, Karen Splettstoesser Photo Credit: PASSAIC COUNTY PROSECUTOR

Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said she had no choice, leaving the family of Karen Splettstoesser without justice.

Rafael Camey is now in the hands of federal immigration officials who are expected to deport him.

The issue bounced around the court system before coming to a halt last month.

Superior Court Judge Marilyn C. Clark initially granted a defense request during the preparation for Camey’s trial to keep jurors from hearing the results of a DNA swab that she said Passaic police illegally obtained from him.

The state Appellate Division rejected a bid by the prosecutor’s office to overturn Clark’s decision, as did the New Jersey state Supreme Court.

The higher court sent a request by the state to take a new DNA swab from the undocumented immigrant back to Paterson. 

Last month, Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed denied it “based on the improper conduct of police in obtaining the original sample,” Valdes said Monday.

Splettstoesser’s brutally beaten body was found near a riverbank behind a ShopRite on Eighth Street on Sept. 30, 2013.

Camey, then 38, was taken into custody nearly three weeks later after a fellow prostitute told a city police detective that she’d seen him with Splettstoesser the night before.

The hooker -- identified in court papers as "Tina" -- referred to "Katie" Splettstoesser as “the new girl on the block” and said she’d been choked by Camey herself during a trick.

A lab analysis on the swab that city police got from Camey matched DNA that authorities said was found on her body.

Prosecutors subsequently charged Camey with murder, felony murder and rape.

“The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office has aggressively pursued its legal right to appeal the decision of Judge Clark to suppress the evidence in this case,” Valdes said. “While we respectfully disagree with Judge Clark’s and Judge Mohammed’s decisions we of course respect the opinions and the process that produced those outcomes.

“In sum, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office has determined that, considering the totality of the circumstances, the dismissal of the charges is required,” she said.

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