MAYS LANDING — An Egg Harbor City mother may have been killed in 2010 because she named the suspect in an earlier killing, according to information revealed in court Thursday.

Deanna Downs, 29, was found dead outside the Harbor City Apartments where she lived in Oct. 17, 2010, a day after authorities say she was shot to death.

Rafael Olmo was charged in 2011 with conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly hiring two men to kill the mother of two.

The state had not previously said what the motivation for the killing was. But as attorneys in the case told the judge about possible motions in the case, Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Maher brought up that Downs was a witness in a fatal shootout at the apartment complex a full year before she was killed.

Downs gave a statement saying she saw Olmo running from the scene with a gun, Maher said.

Sandy Thomas, 30, was killed and his cousin wounded in a shooting during a party at the apartment complex Oct. 12, 2009. Olmo was charged with aggravated assault and weapons offenses in that case, which is still pending.

“It’s a false charge,” Olmo’s attorney, Stephen Funk, said. “We are eagerly looking forward to trial so that we can show that Mr. Olmo is innocent.”

Funk will file a motion to try to keep the 2009 incident from trial.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Kyran Connor ruled that a statement Olmo’s co-defendant gave to investigators was legally obtained.

Marco Adams, 29, testified in a Miranda hearing that he did not understand his rights when a card listing them was given to him during an interrogation in April 2011, six months after Downs was killed. Adams is accused of shooting the woman in the face.

Another man, Dontay Matthews, 22, has pleaded guilty in the case.

Adams originally indicated on the Miranda card that he did not want to speak to investigators. But then he asks what they’re investigating.

Detective Sgt. Pat Snyder, of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Unit, tell Adams they can’t talk to him about he case unless he indicates that on the card. He and FBI Special Agent Dan Garrabrant also told Adams he could stop talking at any time, a video of the interrogation showed.

Adams’ attorney, Jill Cohen, argued that Adams’ Miranda rights should have been read to him, although there is no statute saying the rights must be given orally.

When asked on the stand Thursday if he understood he could have an attorney or that anything he said could be used against him, Adams said no.

He said that he was not in his right frame of mind because officers had come into his home and “treated him like a prisoner.” He was then cuffed and taken for questioning.

But Connor found that the proper procedures were used.

Cohen said she will likely move to have the cases severed, so that Adams will not be tried with Olmo. Maher said he likely would oppose that.

Earlier this month, co-defendant Olmo was charged in another 2010 killing. Leandro A. Rodriguez, 36, of Hackensack, was found dead Dec. 2, 2010, in a backyard of an unoccupied residents on the 500 block of South Berlin Avenue in Galloway Township.

That, Maher told Superior Court Judge KyranConnor, is being presented as “a drug rip-off.”

Olmo had not had a first appearance on those charges because he is in federal custody on drug and weapons offenses. His federal trial is currently scheduled for September, Funk said. Another attorney is representing Olmo in that case.

Contact Lynda Cohen:

609-272-7257

Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen