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Cedarville man gets life sentence in 2016 murder of wife

BRIDGETON — Tara O’Shea-Watson had a restraining order against her husband and planned to leave him before he stabbed her dozens of times, killing her in front of their 12-year-old son, prosecutors said Friday during his sentencing.

“She was ready to start a new life away from the abuse of the defendant,” Assistant Prosecutor Charles Wettstein said. “But the defendant was not ready to release control, and he exercised the ultimate control possible and took Tara away from her friends, from her relatives, from her mother and her children. The tables have turned, and the defendant has lost control.”

Jeremiah E. Monell, 34, of Cedarville in Lawrence Township, was sentenced to life without parole in a maximum security prison for the December 2016 murder of 35-year-old O’Shea-Watson.

Monell’s public defender, Nathan Perry, said he thought “emotionally and mentally there’s some underlying disturbance” that Monell would be able to get treatment for in the state system.

“In my conversations with Mr. Monell, I know that he is very contrite, remorseful,” Perry said. “There’s no way to un-ring the bell; there’s no way to go back in time, Judge, but if we could do that, I think that he would pursue a decidedly different course.”

Monell, shackled in an orange Cumberland County jail jumpsuit, looked down or at the judge during the half-hour appearance, attempting to hold in several burps that punctuated the silences between victim impact statements and the judge’s decision.

A jury found Monell guilty of the murder and weapons offenses after a two-week trial in January in Cumberland County Superior Court.

During the trial, prosecutors argued Monell stabbed O’Shea-Watson to death in her Commercial Township home in front of the estranged couple’s 12-year-old son before evading police for two weeks. State Police finally found him in Folsom, Atlantic County.

The medical examiner testified that O’Shea-Watson “suffered nearly 90 sharp-force injury wounds.” Investigators said she was stabbed all over her throat, chest and stomach before being covered in a blanket decorated with the two princesses from Disney’s “Frozen”.

Before the sentence was handed down Friday, a few of the more than 20 people in the courtroom gallery read victim impact statements, including O’Shea-Watson’s mother and son. They stood behind a picture of Tara that was propped up on the prosecutor’s desk.

Emily O’Shea, Tara’s mother, addressed Monell directly, telling him he “destroyed many lives without a care in the world.”

“Thank God you are going where you can never harm another person,” she said. “You are finally going to answer for all the evil, lying, cheating, stealing, cruel and abusive things you have done, and you will still have to answer to God for your crimes and broken commandments.”

Jeremiah W. Monell, son of O’Shea-Watson and Monell, did not read his statement out loud, but stood next to a victim advocate while she read from a piece of paper.

He described his mother as “honest, loyal and protective,” and added he missed her laugh and smile the most.

“Sometimes I have to wake up and remember that my mother isn’t here,” the court advocate read. “And so, I think you are right where you belong.”

Monell’s father also made a statement in court, during which he asked for his son’s forgiveness.

“You didn’t always see a godly example in me as a dad and as a husband, so I ask you to forgive me for that and know that me and Mom love you,” he said.

Monell only nodded, looking at his father in fleeting glances.

There was a restraining order against Monell at the time of the murder, Superior Court Judge Cristen D’Arrigo said during his decision, and explained that domestic violence cases are all too common.

“Often, they are initially low-level offences, but it is the specter of a case like this that haunts every judge’s mind every time when these cases come up before us,” D’Arrigo said. “It is the ultimate bad outcome.”

When D’Arrigo gave Monell the opportunity to address the court, Monell said, “I came here today to be sentenced, and I’m ready for that.”

Contact: 609-272-7241 mbilinski@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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