Her dead body was dumped in a wooded area near a motel where her suspected killer, Brian Mertz, was staying in West Deptford.
Ten years after the crime, a Gloucester County jury found Mertz guilty of murder in the 2002 death of Jennifer Whipkey.
Mertz faces 30 years in a state prison without parole.
“I think that justice was served. We’re happy that this process is finished,” said her mother, Liz McCool. “My daughter has been gone for ten years, so grief is a lifetime process.”
Mertz became a prime suspect in Whipkey’s murder after semen recovered from Whipkey’s body matched a DNA sample Mertz had given after a cocaine possession conviction in 2005. It eventually led to Mertz being charged on December 21, 2008 on charges of murder and sexual assault.
Testimony from a jailhouse acquaintance, Howard D. Lopez, who met Mertz while the two were being held on separate charges in Gloucester County, led prosecutors to a knife claimed to be the murder weapon and found at a DuBois Avenue property in Woodbury.
Initially, Mertz had denied ever knowing Whipkey before eventually claiming that the two had consensual sex after he picked her up at the Adelphia restaurant and nightclub in the early morning hours of May 26, 2002.
The sexual assault charges were dropped when Mertz’s defense, led by attorney Bruce K. Warren, motioned Judge Marshall on October 16 to dismiss the charges.
In Warren’s closing arguments, Warren depicted Mertz as someone who “does not fit this crime,” painting the picture of a young man who was simply trying to have a good time late at night.
He was there to pick up girls. He’s a 24-year-old guy at the club at 2 or 3 in the morning,” said Warren. “In what scenario does that induce rage?”