By the numbers: How people die in the Garden State
By Tucker Cummings
For Morbid New Jersey 

If you’ve got a morbid imagination, then you probably think about death all the time. And if you’ve ever wondered how the denizens of the Garden State are most likely to die, we’ve got the answers. Thanks to the State’s Department of Health and Senior Services, we can tell you how, when, and where you are most likely to kick the bucket if you reside in New Jersey.

As with much of the US, the leading causes of death are (in descending order) heart disease, cancer, stroke, and “chronic lower respiratory diseases.” The fifth leading cause of death in NJ is accidental injury. NJ’s rate of unintentional deaths is actually lower than the national average.

But if you’re under 35, this is the most likely way you’ll meet your end. Strangely, blood poisoning (the 8th most common cause of death in New Jersey) occurs with a frequency that’s well above the national average.

The death rate among New Jersey females is slightly lower than that of U.S. females, with ladies most likely to die from either cancer or heart disease.

Sadly, New Jersey is among the states with the largest gap in life expectancies: white males in NJ live 8 years longer than African-American males. White females live about 6 years longer than their black counterparts.

New Jersey has fewer infant and toddler deaths than the national average, most of which are caused by injury. On the other end of the age spectrum, it’s safe to bet that if you make it to 85, your eventual cause of death will be heart disease, no matter what race or gender you are. And chances are, you’ll be admitted to in-patient care at a hospital, not the ER. Unless, of course, you kick the bucket at home.

New Jersey’s rate of homicide is somewhat lower than the national average. However, drug-related deaths occur far more frequently in NJ than the national average, with black and Caucasian citizens most likely to die this way than Hispanic people. Also higher than the national average: NJ’s number of HIV-related deaths, although there has been a downward trend in recent years.

And when it comes to suicides, you’re more likely to off yourself in NJ if you are a white male over the age of 65, or a white male between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. The county with the higher number of suicides tends to be Cape May County, with Camden and Gloucester Counties not far behind. Strangely, Salem County has almost no suicides.

So if you want to live a long, healthy life in New Jersey, you’d better hope you’re white, living in Salem County, and living drug-free. And watch out for blood poisoning. For the rest of us, death might come sooner than we think.


The high cost of dying in the Garden State

By Tucker Cummings
For Morbid New Jersey

Just because you love living in the Garden State doesn’t mean you’ll like dying here. Between funeral home costs, estate taxes, and the method chosen to dispose of the corpse, authorities like Smart Money say New Jersey is “the worst place to die.” But why exactly is it so expensive to die here? And more importantly, how can you keep those costs down?

Let’s take a look at taxes first. New Jersey currently has state-level estate taxes that affect any estate worth more than $675,000. That’s the lowest estate tax threshold of any state in the union. The same Smart Money article revealed Rhode Island clocks in at $850,000, while Massachusetts and New York both hover at $1 million threshold.

However, New Jersey raises the bar even higher by charging both an estate tax and an inheritance tax: a combined effective estate and inheritance tax rate of 54.1%.  What does that mean in terms of real money? According to one expert, “If you die in New Jersey with a $15 million estate, the combined federal and state tax hit on the $10 million excess over the federal exemption would be $5,410,000.”

Another factor that racks up death-related costs is the requirement to hire a funeral director. New Jersey is one of only a handful of states that require this measure to be taken after death, along with New York, Connecticut, Michigan, Nebraska, and a few others. While people in other states can have services at no cost in their own homes, New Jersey residents need to work with a funeral director.

According to the website of Scillieri Funeral Home in Paterson, NJ, the average funeral costs between $5,000 and $7,000. The Memorial Society of North Central New Jersey says the figure is actually higher in New Jersey: “well over $8,000 plus cemetery fees.” And a recent article on put the upper limit even higher, around $14,000 for burials. By contrast, the state government in Connecticut says the average funeral in their state costs around $6,000.”

So how do you cut those costs? The same way as with any major purchase: shop around first. In an interview with US News and World Report, Joshua Slocum, executive director of the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance, revealed that Princeton-area funeral costs vary widely. Full-service funerals might cost anywhere from $2,500 to $6,500. “I’ve seen a simple cremation range from $395 to $5,600,” he added. Shop around to make sure you aren’t being overcharged.

Cremation is becoming increasingly popular in New Jersey. While twenty years ago burials outpaced cremations 5-to-1, these days 2 out of every 5 New Jersey residents opt for cremation, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services.

“A lot of people choose cremation because they think it means they can control more of their disposition,” said Wilson Beebe, director of the New Jersey Association of Funeral Directors. “They want to be in the driver’s seat.”

Still, there is a way to get a free burial if you live in NJ: just be a veteran. Honorably discharged vets and their spouses get free burials at a Veterans Affairs National Cemetery.

For the rest of us, death in the Garden State remains a very real financial burden.

Stabbing suspect dies in police custody

Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi, Esq., announces the investigation into the police in-custody death of Diego Munoz-Colon which occurred at the Dover Police Department on Thursday, March 8, 2012.

On Thursday, March 8, 2012, at approximately 7:30 a.m. the victim who was identified as Diego Munoz-Colon, age 46, (DOB 10/10/1965), of Dover, New Jersey, was arrested after he turned himself into the Dover Police Department. Mr. Diego Munoz-Colon was wanted in connection with an alleged stabbing which had occurred on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 in Dover.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Diego Munoz-Colon was processed and placed in the jail holding cell. The holding cell was monitored via a video-feed which is viewed by the police staff member who is assigned to the front desk at the police department.

At approximately 11:50 a.m., a Dover Police Officer went to bring the victim lunch and noticed that he was hanging by his shirt within the cell.

The individual was ultimately treated and transported to the Dover Saint Clare’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The preliminary investigation revealed that Mr. Diego Munoz-Colon was in the holding cell alone. There is no indication of any third-party involvement, foul play and/or suspicious circumstances.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office was notified consistent with existing protocol.

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit as well as the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and the Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office are jointly conducting the investigation.


Man Sentenced to Life for Murdering Mother-In-Law 

Newark  (Feb. 17, 2012) — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that Forrest Thomas, 45, of Newark was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Carol Spratt, his mother-in-law.

An ailing, 76-year-old woman who was on oxygen 24 hours a day, Spratt relied on Thomas to take care of her.  Thomas was convicted of murdering Ms. Spratt and disturbing human remains on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 before the Honorable Peter V. Ryan, J.S.C.  Today Judge Ryan sentenced Thomas to life in prison.  Prior to this murder, Thomas had three convictions for robbery, receiving stolen property and narcotics.

According to Assistant Prosecutor Michele Miller, who tried the case, on Jan. 18, 2010 two junk collectors found the body of Ms. Spratt, clothed in a night gown, stuffed in a garbage and placed in a shopping cart by the dumpster behind 180 South Orange Avenue in Newark.  They called 911.  Having no identification on her body, a missing person’s investigation was launched.  It revealed that the victim was Ms. Spratt.  Officers discovered that on Jan. 13, Thomas had been permanently banned from Garden Senior Apartments, owned by New Community Corporation, because he was abusive to Ms. Spratt and was stealing from her.  That was the last time she was seen alive.

After killing the victim, Thomas lived with her body for three days in her apartment before getting rid of her.  During that period, he tried to sell the victim’s belongings to neighbors, telling them she had tripped over her oxygen cord, was in the hospital, but would be moving to Florida when she was released.

In fact, Thomas stuffed her dead body in two garbage bags, put her inside a shopping cart and wheeled her down the South Orange Avenue, leaving her behind 180 South Orange Avenue.

The Medical Examiner ruled her death a homicide by neck compression.


“This is a man who promised his dying wife that he would take care of her sick mother.  In reality, the only person he ever took care of was himself.  When Carol Spratt banned him from the building, cutting off his only source of income and the roof over his head, he killed her.  We are satisfied that the sentence imposed by Judge Ryan is appropriate given the defendant’s blatant disregard for decency and human life,” said Assistant Prosecutor Miller.

Whitney’s death investigation

Investigators on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 were looking into the origin of prescription pill bottles found in Whitney Houston’s room after she died suddenly on Saturday. Story

Jersey marine killed in Afghanistan

North Arlington (FEB. 14, 2012) — U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, a resident of North Arlington, died Friday in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. He was 20.  See the story.

Jury Convicts Man Who Killed Over Nicki Minaj CDs

Newark (FEB. 10, 2012) – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced Friday that an Essex County jury convicted Ahmad Taylor, 21, of Newark of passion/provocation manslaughter for killing a Newark man in a dispute over Nicki Minaj CDs.

On Jan. 16, 2011 Amir McLean, 19, of Newark was fatally shot when he and Taylor got into an argument over Nicki Minaj CDs. McLean was arguing with his girlfriend and tossed seven CDs out the window into the snow. Taylor, who was at the house and wanted to hear the CDs, told McLean to go outside and get them. McLean’s girlfriend is Taylor’s aunt. When McLean refused to retrieve the CDs, Taylor pulled out a gun and shot McLean multiple times, killing him.

During a two week trial before the Honorable Thomas Moore, J.S.C, Assistant Prosecutor Paul Bradley, who presented the case along with Assistant Prosecutor Ahmad Rasool, argued for a murder conviction but the jury convicted Taylor of the lesser crime of passion/provocation manslaughter.

Murder carries a mandatory minimum 30-year sentence. The maximum penalty for passion/provocation manslaughter is 10 years.

When Taylor is sentenced on March 16, 2012, prosecutors will argue for the maximum penalty plus five years for the gun offense because of Taylor’s prior violent record as a juvenile. Two weeks before the homicide, Taylor had been paroled from prison.


Police say a thief who tried to steal a cell phone ended up getting into a scuffle with a former high school wrestler. The scuffle led to the mugger’s death, according to police.

Gian Davis, 30, approached two local college kids at around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 and asked them for change, NBC New York reported.

The men refused. Davis then asked to use a cell phone to call a cab. One of the men replied that he’d call a cab for him. Davis then asked to shake the man’s hand but then tried to take the man’s phone, according to a published report.

According to the New York Daily News, Davis grabbed the man and began hitting him in the head, prompting his friend – who had wrestled in high school – to put Davis in a headlock.

Police sources told NBC the man’s grip was so strong that Davis choked to death.

The two men stayed on the scene, and when police arrived, Davis was unconscious. He was pronounce dead less than an hour later at University Hospital.

The ex-wrestler and his friend have not been charged, and Essex County prosecutor assistant prosecutor Tom Fennelly told NBC they were cooperating with police.

Davis’ rap sheet included arrests for assault and theft, and he was last released from prison on July 22, according to the Daily News.


Bloomfield resident shot dead in Montclair

Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Montclair Police Chief David Sabagh announced today the Montclair Police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force are investigating a fatal shooting in Montclair.

The victim has been identified as Ibn Futrell, 29, of Bloomfield. At approximately 8:59 pm Montclair Police responded to a report of gun shots fired in the vicinity of 4 Mission Street.

They discovered a 29-year-old male, later identified as Ibn Futrell. Futrell was currently living in Bloomfield. He formerly resided in Montclair.

Futrell was transported to Mountainside Hospital where he was pronounced dead at approximately 9:57 p.m., according to Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly of the ECPO Homicide Unit.

The investigation is active and ongoing. No arrests have been made. No suspects have been identified at this time. Additional information will be released when it becomes available. – Essex County Prosecutor’s Office

Dressing up a cemetery with art 

Newark, N.J. (January 31, 2012) – Breathtaking artwork is not always the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of your local Catholic cemetery.  However, New Jersey residents will soon come to associate Maryrest Cemetery and the Maryrest Chapel Mausoleum in Mahwah, NJ with beautifully crafted artwork, stunning handmade bronze statues and magnificent stained glass windows, as expansion of the Bergen County site nears completion in 2012.

Maryrest is one of seven cemeteries of the family of Archdiocese of Newark Catholic Cemeteries, meeting the needs of individuals and families throughout Northern new Jersey since 1935.

Our Lady the Magnificat

One of the most notable additions to Maryrest will be the breathtaking,  Our Lady the Magnificat statue, a staggering 21 ft. tall,  21,000 lb. monument of Mother Mary that will watch over the Maryrest property. Cast in pure bronze with a stainless steel halo and seated upon a granite base, Our Lady the Magnificat is currently being finalized by noted sculptor Guido Mariani at Mathews International SpA in Italy. Our Lady the Magnificat, based on the creative collaboration of the Archdiocese of Newark Worship Department and the staff of Catholic Cemeteries, will be installed in early spring 2012.

Another new aspect to Maryrest will be the addition of 1,517 square feet of beautiful stained glass in over 30 windows. These stained-glass windows, valued at over $750,000, will be a combination of existing windows and completely new works of art. A total of 677 square feet of windows were rescued from Sacred Heart Church of Vailsburg and will be restored and retrofitted for the mausoleum by Ray Clagnan Glass Studio in Wall, NJ. The remaining 840 square feet of stained glass will be original pieces designed and painted by local NJ artist, Bronna Butler.

“The new stained-glass pieces will exactly match the designs used in the existing windows that were made more than 75 years ago,” said artist Bronna Butler. “Every single piece of glass will be individually painted so that they appear to be an exact match to the existing, restored windows.”

The addition of the various pieces of artwork at Maryrest is just one piece of the property’s multi-million dollar expansion, which is set to be completed in late spring 2012.


Human remains found in Green Brook. Story here.

Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 that an Essex County jury convicted James Perry, 24, of Newark of 11 counts, including manslaughter by eluding, in connection with the death of Joselin Lizardo, 34, and her 10-year-old son, Aneudy Breton, both of Newark.

Ms. Lizardo was running errands just blocks from her home when her Toyota Corolla was hit by Perry who was fleeing East Orange Police in a stolen 2006 Acura on Nov. 25, 2008, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

After a seven-day trial, the jury deliberated for a half a day before finding Perry guilty of all 11 counts in the indictment, including manslaughter by eluding, eluding, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, failure to render aid to an injured victim and related charges.

Perry is scheduled to be sentenced on March 12, 2012 before the Honorable Joseph A. Portelli.

“We will seek a life sentence given the fact that the defendant has two prior felony convictions,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Ralph Amirata, who handled the case along with Assistant Prosecutor Erica Liu.

Perry was previously convicted of distribution of narcotics within 1,000 feet of a school and a theft offense.

“With the assistance of the East Orange Police Department and the New Jersey State Police Forensic Laboratory DNA Unit, we hope we are able to bring a measure of closure and comfort to the family who suffered two extremely tragic losses,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Amirata.

Two other defendants, who were in the car with Perry, are awaiting trial on receiving stolen property charges. They are Eugene Reaves, 27, and Chad Pamplin, 22, both of East Orange.

The charges against Reaves and Pamplin are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they plea guilty or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced on Wednesday, Jan. 25, that an Essex County Grand Jury has indicted Yvonne Walker, 45, for the murder and robbery of 88-year-old Cassetta Blunt.

The grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Walker with murder, felony murder, robbery, unlawful possession of a knife and possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose.

The indictment alleges that Ms. Blunt was fatally stabbed by Walker on June 15, 2011 during a robbery. Ms. Blunt was found dead inside her home from multiple stab wounds at 12:25 am. Walker would routinely come to the elderly woman’s home to do chores.

Walker is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in the indictment before the Honorable Peter J. Vazquez, J.S.C., on Feb. 14 at 9 a.m.


Photos of the charred body of 20-year-old murder victim Christine Mariano were shown to a Jersey City jury on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, during the trial of the man accused of strangling and setting the victim on fire.

Mariano was killed on Sept. 1, 2009. Hudson County Prosecutors say her mother’s boyfriend, Romulu Gregorio, 41, committed the crimes after breaking up with the victim’s mother, Claire Mariano.

The woman said Gregorio called and texted her more than 50 times a day, becoming more and more threatening. Story here.

A driver was killed Tuesday after his vehicle crashed into a tanker truck in Elizabeth, according to police. The driver may have been drag racing, according to New York’s Channel 7, Eyewitness News.

The accident occurred about 1:45 a.m. on Routes 1 & 9, near Bayway Avenue. A witness said the car went through a red light at a high rate of speed and went underneath the gasoline tanker truck. The car driver was killed.

The accident occurred just one day after a Cliffside woman was struck and killed by a DPW truck.


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