A jury found Patrick Latko guilty Wednesday in the double murder of a mother and son in their Hammonton home in 2011.
The Gloucester County man was accused in the fatal stabbings of Diana Patterson, 64, and her son Ryan, 29, on Nov. 3, 2011, because he believed his former girlfriend was seeing Ryan Patterson.
Melissa Latko, the defendant's mother, burst into tears as the verdicts were being read after about two hours of deliberations by the jury. The family left the room as soon as Latko was pronounced guilty of the two murder counts and tampering with evidence.
The family of Ryan and Diana Patterson gathered outside the courtroom and hugged each other as they cried.
Sentencing is set for June 10.
In closing arguments earlier Wednesday, the defense began by claiming that the evidence in the fatal stabbings did not directly implicate Latko, 33, in the deaths.
But while no DNA found matched Latko’s, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Cary Shill argued the circumstantial evidence links him to the deaths of the mother and son in their South Madison Avenue home.
Is Latko “the unluckiest guy in the world? Or did he kill Ryan and Diana Patterson?” Shill asked.
Public defender Kevin Moses pointed out that not a drop of blood was found on Latko or his belongings.
“So there were 20 stab wounds, two slit throats ... so whoever did this would've been a bloody mess,” Moses said to the jury.
He added that even if jurors “buy into the soap opera”of the troubled personal relationship of Latko, which left him heartbroken, the evidence — texts between himself and former girlfriend Holly Patterson — do not indicate Latko attempted to get back together with her.
Shill said that although Holly Patterson, who is not related to the victims, testified last week that she considered herself single after the summer that year, Latko's texts to friends emphasized his obsession with the relationship and refusal to let it go.
When referring to the former girlfriend, Latko would speak to friends as if it were a current relationship and constantly accused her of cheating on him, Shill said. In addition, he told his friends how depressed he was and how she was “fighting her feelings” for him.
“In Patrick Latko’s world, it’s all about ‘me,’” Shill told the jury.“This is his version of it: she’s putting him through something. But she’s not putting him through anything — she wants nothing to do with him,” Shill said.
Ryan Patterson was a mutual friend of the then couple, and Holly Patterson testified last week that she had not had contact with the deceased for weeks prior to the homicides. In fact, she had been “stood up” by him just days before, Shill said.
Shill argued that Latko's actions after the killings could match those of a murderer — trying to conceal or destroy evidence.
Testimony from a salesman showed that a knife, found less than a mile from the murder scene, with Ryan Patterson's blood belonged to Latko. Detectives were able to obtain access to Latko's four storage units in Deptford, which contained the sheath to the knife, and video surveillance showed Latko changing his clothes outside a unit about half an hour after the murders.
He was in possession of a borrowed car, belonging to storage unit neighbor William Iannotti, who's son saw Latko remove the driver and passenger floor mats when the vehicle was returned a day after the killings.
Why would someone removed the driver and passenger floor mats from a borrowed car, Shill asked.
Additionally, after having lost his phone at the Pattersons’ residence — which was found a few feet away from Ryan Patterson's body — Latko never indicated he was actively searching for it, Shill said.
Circumstantial evidence can often be more powerful than direct evidence, he said.
During their deliberations, the jury requested hearing the 911 recording of the call Ryan Patterson made just before he was stabbed to death. In the tape, he said that his mother was being stabbed.
The prosecution earlier stated that the victim can be heard saying, "Pat, I didn't do anything."
Staff Writer Lynda Cohen contributed to this report.
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