Today’s conviction in the cold-blooded shooting death of Lakewood Police Officer Christopher Matlosz indicates it’s time New Jersey begins sentencing “the most-brazen and deadly murderers” of police officers to the death penalty, state Sen. Robert Singer said.
Jahmell Crockam faces life without parole when he is sentenced March 22. But Singer said that isn’t punishment, or deterrence, enough.
“This cold-blooded tragedy took the life of a 27-year-old hero from his family, friends and our community,” the state senator said this afternoon. “This morning, justice was properly served for Chris and his loved ones.”
Jurors in Ocean County convicted Crockam, 20, of murder and weapons offenses in the Jan. 14, 2011 killing after a three-week trial.
Crockam was wanted for another murder that occurred a few months earlier when Matlosz pulled up in his cruiser to a Lakewood apartment complex and motioned him over.
Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford said Crockam then pulled a gun from his pocket and shot the young officer three times from point-blank range rather than risk going to prison.
Matlosz “was killed for no other reason than that he had a badge and a uniform,” she said.
With help from the public, authorities ended a massive manhunt by catching Crockham hiding in a friend’s Camden apartment.
Months of intense, escalating emotion erupted today as the officer’s fiancée, Kelly Walsifer, collapsed in sobs as the verdict was read.
Although she said that Matlosz “can rest in peace now,” Walsifer noted that the verdict “doesn’t bring Chris back.”
The second murder, of a man whose body was found dumped on a street corner, doesn’t have a firm trial date set yet. Authorities officially charged Crockam and another man with the killing the day of Matlosz’s funeral.
“I do not support the death penalty out of a need for revenge or due to malice in my heart,” Singer said last year, when he first sought to reinstate capital punishment in the wake of an alarming number of police shootings nationwide. “Neither do the many individuals I have met who have suffered from heinous crimes.
“I support the death penalty because sometimes it is the only way to achieve justice for the victims and families affected by horrible crimes.”
“I am well aware that the death penalty will not bring back a slain police officer, a murdered child or a victim of terrorism,” said Singer. ” For certain crimes, however, life in prison is not justice.”
The death penalty has had a long, involved history in New Jersey. The Legislature reinstated it in 1982, even though the state hadn’t executed anyone since 1963.
Former Gov. Jon Corzine then repealed the law in December 2007.
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