South Jersey murder defendant lived near where victim’s body was found

The woman’s body was found just inside a wooded area May 26, 2002, near the Westwood Motor Lodge motel in West Deptford Township. Mertz at that time was living at the motel.

UPDATE — Suspect Mertz convicted, faces 30 years.

The man accused of stabbing Jennifer Whipkey to death lived a little more than half a football field away from where her body was found, according to the South Jersey Times. That was among testimony heard Thursday during the fourth day in the trial of Brian M. Mertz, charged with the rape and murder of the 22-year-old from East Greenwich Township.

The woman’s body was found just inside a wooded area May 26, 2002, near the Westwood Motor Lodge motel in West Deptford Township. Mertz at that time was living at the motel.

Authorities said he inflicted 63 total stab and slash wounds to Whipkey and left her body in the woods. Investigators allegedly matched DNA found at the scene to that of Mertz.

On Thursday, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Nicholas Schock testified that the distance from the front door of motel Room 110 to the very spot in which Whipkey’s body was found is about 160 feet, or a bit more than 53 yards.

Schock, who has been with the Prosecutor’s Office for about five years, said he recorded the distance this past August with a laser measuring device often used while investigating crash incidents or on other scenes.

He also showed to the jury a series of photos taken at intervals while moving from the motel room door to near the spot in which the ghastly discovery was made. The progression shows one could make a beeline from the room, through the parking lot, across the roadway and to the spot in the woods.

Under continued questioning from Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Michael Curwin, who is trying the case, Schock also spoke of finding the knife prosecutors believe is the murder weapon.

Investigators reported finding a black folding knife inside a garage while executing a search warrant in the area on Dec. 27, 2011.

But there were also tackle boxes in the garage, and it’s not uncommon to find knives there too – a point defense attorney Bruce K. Warren suggested. When asked on cross examination if any of those in the garage had knives, however, Schock said they didn’t.

Warren asked the detective if the blade was about three inches long, which Schock affirmed. On Tuesday – the trial’s third day – forensic pathologist Dr. Paul J. Hoyer testified that the deepest wounds on Whipkey’s body measured about two inches. Hoyer, however, said the murder weapon’s blade could have been longer.

Warren asked if the blade was partially serrated, which Schock also confirmed. The defense attorney had taken the same jab at the evidence Tuesday because Hoyer hadn’t said the wounds could have been caused by a knife with a serrated blade. – South Jersey Times.