MAYS LANDING — The trial of a man accused of killing a Hammonton mother and son in 2011 began with a difficult day for the family as pictures of the horrific aftermath of the fatal stabbings were shown in court for the first time.
Patrick Latko, 33, killed Diana Patterson, 64, and her 29-year-old son, Ryan, in a jealous rage, believing that Ryan was having an affair with Latko’s ex-girlfriend, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Cary Shill told the jurors in his opening statements.
“He was obsessed with the end of the relationship,” he said.
But public defender Kevin Moses urged the eight men and eight women to hold the state to its burden to provide “clear and convincing evidence.”
“Sometimes the things that are important are what is not there,” Moses said, setting up a defense that is expected to question how complete and thorough the investigation was.
“I didn’t do anything,” Ryan Patterson is heard screaming several times in the 911 call he made at 5:23 a.m. Nov. 3, 2011. “I didn’t do anything to you.”
Jurors heard the call several times Tuesday, and were given an enhanced version to increase the volume of Patterson’s voice and provided transcripts.
The first version, provided by the prosecution, indicated Patterson can twice be heard saying, “Pat” — allegedly naming his attacker. The defense has said that is not audible.
Hammonton dispatcher Linda Martinelli said Ryan Patterson told her he and his mother had both been stabbed.
“I asked, ‘Is the person still there?’ and he never answered me again,” she said.
Martinelli said the address he gave her didn’t come up in the system, so she eventually had to “ping” the cell phone — tracking it by its coordinates on a map.
When police arrived, Diana Patterson was in the kitchen at the threshold of the back door, in a pool of blood, her hair matted, Patrolman Jared Baglivo said. Her eyes were open, but she was dead, stabbed a total of nine times.
In the corner of his bedroom, Ryan Patterson was gurgling, his throat slit, Baglivo recalled.
When paramedics arrived, they tore off his shirt to reveal nine stab wounds. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Later, seven more stab wounds would be discovered in his back.
A phone was in the bedroom. But it wasn’t the one Patterson used to call 911. His iPhone was never recovered.
The phone found in the bedroom belonged to Latko, who would later tell police he left it there when he visited the Pattersons. He and Ryan had been friends.
“Was there blood on the phone?” Moses asked Sgt. Ian Finnimore, who does forensics for the Prosecutor’s Office.
“Not that I recall,” he said.
Moses also asked about what he said appeared to be a bloody footprint at the scene. But Finnimore said he did not believe it was a footprint.
Photos of the bloody aftermath were shown several times during the first day of trial, including close-ups of Ryan Patterson’s chest.
Several of the family members turned away or looked down as the photos were shown. At least one had tears as she left the courtroom during a break.
A knife used to make those wounds was recovered three days after the crime on a neighbor’s lawn. Ryan Patterson’s blood was on it. But neither fingerprints nor Latko’s DNA were found.
“None of the science is going to link Mr. Latko to this crime,” Moses told the jurors in his opening statement.
However, a sheath that fits that knife was found in Latko’s storage unit in Gloucester County, Shill said. It had a crack in it just like one a man said he sold to Latko three days before the killings.
Video taken from outside that storage unit 37 minutes after the killings also will be shown. In it, a man resembling Latko — getting out of a car he allegedly borrowed from a friend — is seen in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. After he goes to the trunk, he comes back in view in a different sweatshirt and shorts holding a plastic bag, Shill told jurors.
The bag and clothes were never recovered. Neither were car mats Latko allegedly took out of the borrowed car.
There also are no witnesses, Moses reminded the jury.
He agreed that isn’t unusual, “but, boy, wouldn’t it feel better if you had an eyewitness?”
The state will continue presenting its case before Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo today, when the woman Latko allegedly killed over is expected to testify.
Holly Patterson — who is not related to the victims — will talk about her former boyfriend’s jealousy issues and about texts he sent to her and Ryan Patterson before the killings, indicating he believed the two were seeing one another.
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