By David Madden, Trang Do and Cleve Bryan
CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS)–Day one of the murder trial of David Creato, charged with the October 2015 murder of his 3-year-old son Brendan. The child’s mother took the stand.
Samantha Denoto, 23, testified she dated Creato starting in their teens. They broke up two years after Brendan was born but raised him jointly. She recalled the frantic events of the day the child was found dead in Cooper River Park and of a conversation she recorded with David a month after the child’s death at the suggestion of investigators.
“We talked about what else could have happened to him and he had told me that maybe the spirits told him to walk down towards the woods which is completely odd and unexplainable,” Denoto said.
Creato’s defense attorney, Richard Fuschino, got the woman to concede her onetime boyfriend was a spiritual type of person and that aside from problems with paying for daycare, he was good to his son. There was a reference to the elder Creato’s pet rat at one point, but Denoto could not recall an incident involving the child.
As for the recorded talk, Fuschino asked Denoto if at least 10 meetings with investigators might have affected her feelings about the case. She responded, “I can honestly tell you not one of them directly told me to directly believe that he did it.”
First responders testified about the brief search for Brendan, which ended about a half mile away from Creato’s Haddon Township apartment in Cooper River Park. Jurors also heard Creato’s initial 911 call to police in which David Creato told authorities his son was missing.
That followed opening statements from both sides.
Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Christine Shah admitted much of her evidence will be circumstantial, but “the question in this case is not whether a three-year-old can get out of the house and walk away. It’s whether this three year old would leave the house and walk away. The evidence presented to you in this case will prove that the answer to that question is no.”
Shah pointed to the clothing the toddler was wearing when his body was found, noting that his socks were clean, and suggesting no one could walk from the apartment to the park in their stocking feet without soiling those socks. She also contended, and the mother later confirmed, that Brendan was afraid of the dark.
There’s also the four month affair Creato had with a 17-year-old in the months before the murder. The girl made it clear she wanted no part of Brendan, an issue that will play out later in this trial.
Fuschino’s opening statement centered on the lack of direct evidence against his client and how authorities targeted him early on in the investigation. “The day it happened, the police made a determination ‘He’s the guy'”, Fuschino said,”Last adult with the kid? That’s who you got at the end. They constructed this investigation to show that it was the person they suspected minute one.”
In the end, Fuschino suggested the only thing that will be proven is that David Creato loved his son.
Testimony in the case resumes before Judge John Kelley on Tuesday and is like to last through most of next month.